Q: Benji Kimpioka has looked bright in the two pre-season games that Sunderland have played so far this summer. How serious should we take these performances, and would you be tempted to make Benji an integral part of Jack Ross’ first team squad in the forthcoming season - perhaps at the expense of signing another player who can play up front/out wide?
Jake Hannah says...
After the recent performances of Benji Kimpioka it’s hard to not want to give this lad a bigger crack of the whip than what he was handed last year.
Although he’s still very raw, both his unpredictability on the ball and attitude to the games so far have been major plus points. It seems the usual mindset of pre-season is to feel your way into games to get minutes into the legs, whereas Benji has been giving each game everything he has got.
The one problem I see is that Kimpioka is maybe a little too similar to what we already have in Duncan Watmore - with regards to their pace and possible lack of composure - but any way we can add pace to the team must be seen as a positive.
One thing I hope for is the fans to understand that he is just a young lad who will make mistakes, both because of his raw nature and playing style.
I wouldn’t be starting him every game, but I imagine he’d be high up in Jack Ross’ thinking at the moment and wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a lot more minutes this term.
Tom Atkinson says...
Benji Kimpioka is still very much a diamond in the rough. His pace and direct nature are fantastic, but there are still question marks surrounding his technical ability. On paper, he sounds like a lot of League One players, but Benji is still young and this could be an opportunity for him to develop into a good player.
I do think the club have really lacked a pacey forward capable of ensuring opposition defences have to remain vigilant throughout a full ninety. Benji offers something completely different to the forwards we currently have at our disposal and that is a good thing both for him and us. Against Benfica B he created space for others to move into and was also impressive at holding the ball up in dangerous areas. I think Jack Ross could well be tempted to give him a go.
It’s also worth asking how many other clubs at this level would be keeping a youth international out of their first team squad? Probably not that many, to be honest. As such, I think Benji should at the very least be considered as an impact sub until he makes his mark on a game or shows Jack Ross in training that he is the man for the job.
Benji probably could have done with a loan last season, but that doesn’t mean he should be forbidden from staking a claim in our side. There’s still a few games left to go in pre-season, and a couple of good performances could see him given a chance to impress next season. It’s up to him to build on a couple of impressive performances.
Phil West says...
I would definitely like to see Kimpioka given some first-team opportunities this season. I’ve always believed that being in League One could result in academy players being given some game time, and here is an excellent opportunity to do just that.
It’s always difficult to gauge where a player is based on his performances during pre-season, but for me, Kimpioka’s form is encouraging. He offers us a creative outlet and some genuine pace, which we were sorely lacking last season. Yes, he’s raw and he has a lot of developing to do, but there’s a talent there, and it will be exciting to see how he develops as the season unfolds.
In terms of signing another ‘like for like’ player who plays in the same position as Kimpioka, I do think recruitment is needed in that area, perhaps a player with experience at this level, from whom Kimpioka could learn. It would be unfair to expect McGeady to be our only creative outlet next season, as talented as he is, and there is definitely a vacancy for a fast, skilful player who can make a difference at key moments in games. If Kimpioka can gain Jack Ross’s trust and continue to develop an all-round game, his potential is enormous.
Paul Fletcher says...
In an ideal world, if we could sign a top-quality attacking midfielder - who is head and shoulders above the options we have now and who would create the chances we so desperately need - then I’d be all for it.
However, I’m definitely not keen to see us sign another player who is a “proven goalscorer at this level”. We’d probably end up paying twice their actual value because we’re Sunderland. And with finances tight, do we really need to commit a large proportion of our wage budget to a striker who probably wouldn’t start many games?
The fact is that nobody is proven at this level. The level of league one - yes. The level of expectation at Sunderland - no. There’s no comparison between scoring goals for a bog-standard league one team in front of 10,000 fans to coming to Sunderland, where 30,000 supporters are expecting you to score goals and win every game. So whoever you sign, it’s a gamble - a gamble we don’t need to take right now.
Benji Kimpioka has come though the ranks here. He knows about the expectation and seems like the kind of character who won’t be affected by it - he’ll play his own way. Yes, this might be frustrating at times - he’ll get in good positions but may not make the most of them. But at least he’s getting in the positions and looking to take positive options.
He’s not the finished article yet but for me, his place in the squad should be guaranteed. I can’t imagine him starting very often but if Ross unleashes him with 20 minutes to go, against tired defenders, he’s guaranteed to cause problems and create a half chance or two. His directness could get the crowd going and give us that bit of impetus we need to get a late goal.