Young Swedish forward Benji Kimpioka has impressed in his few appearances for the Sunderland first team this season, particularly during the club’s run to the Checkatrade Trophy semi-finals.
The 18-year-old spoke to fotbollskanalen about his time at Sunderland so far and revealed that there were clubs as high up as League One interested in signing him on loan but after initially being keen to take up one of those offers, Jack Ross did not want him out on loan, something which gave the youngster confidence:
I had a talk with the Academy Manager a few months ago and there were some clubs that wanted me on loan. At first I thought “yes” immediately, but then I felt that I have developed here. I had a discussion with my agent and the next day Jack said he didn’t want me on loan. It motivated me and now I am fighting even harder here.
When he [Jack Ross] came in as a new coach, I immediately felt that he is a very nice guy and a good coach. He is especially good with us young players and the under-23 players. This meant that you wanted to show off, while it went well in the under-23s, which meant that he took me up directly to the first team. I feel that I have developed a lot here and will continue to work hard, so if we see where it takes me.
There was a team that was in the league below [League Two], League One and some ‘Conference team’, but it did not end. I don’t remember exactly what teams it was.
Kimpioka says it has been a dream playing at the Stadium of Light but although he is grateful, he is hungry to achieve more and puts in extra training to make sure he gives himself the best opportunity possible to be involved in the first team:
It has been very fun and I am very grateful to play for such good fans, around 30,000 in every home game. It has always been a dream to get playing time in such matches. I feel like I can, so I’m very grateful that the first team coach and the assistant coach give me the chance and believe in me.
I will only continue to perform in training with the first team and with the under-23 team. I will always be the best at training, matches and work hard to show that I am the best in all moments. I will also take advantage of, for example, the cup matches where I play with the first team and score goals there, so that I am always in the coach’s thoughts.
There are two attackers I compete with and they are of course good players, but I am confident and believe in what I can do. I see no problem for myself. I do what I am best at, work hard and when the time is right, I take the chance.
I’m proud of myself. It hasn’t been easy for me since I came here. There has been a lot of extra training myself and I usually practice when I am free. I have not always been a star player, but I have always worked hard and will always do so. I will always have my feet on the ground, be myself and spread joy. The trip has been good, and I look at it as though it has not yet begun. I continue to make war, I’m not satisfied.
He was then asked about the Netflix documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die and the 18-year-old gave an interesting insight to the first showing of the series to the first team players. According to Kimpioka, there was a confrontation between the senior players and shows producers over the editing in the programme, particularly the crowd reactions to the heavy home defeat to Celtic in pre-season:
I remember when they filmed last year. I was in the under-18s and under-23s then, while there were tough times for the club. They are in the building and filming training and now matches of the coming season (of the series), so it will be a little more positive now that we will try to get back to the Championship and Premier League.
It eventually turns out that you do not think about it so much. They stand outside the doors before training, while there are cameras on the wall. Sometimes you go by, do something fun and hope to come along. It does nothing for me.
I remember that it was before the documentary was released and we would check out the premiere. I was in the first team squad and we were going to check out the first episode. All the producers were there too. I thought it was good, as they got everything that happened, but it was very negative. Some first team players were not so happy and there was a slight confrontation between some of the players and the producers.
We lost in a friendly against Celtic with 5-0 and the fans were not so happy about it. It was just a training match, but many went home quite early and then they took a clip from another match, where the fans fought, so it looked like they were fighting for the Celtic match, but it wasn’t. They were not happy about it, but the producers edited it together in that case. Everyone has high demands on each other, that is how it should be in a professional club.