RR: Antoine Semenyo, then. What do you think about him as a player?
Andrew Penman: He’s certainly an exciting prospect but he needs regular games to improve and he’s not been getting that at Bristol City. He showed his potential at Newport last season and, while he may not be ready for Championship football just yet, he is definitely capable of making an impact in League One.
1912 Exiles Podcast: I really liked Antoine as a player - the supporters were really disappointed that we didn’t have him for all of last season [Semenyo was recalled from his season-long loan in January by Bristol City]. He’s the most exciting player I’ve ever watched playing for Newport County.
RR: I read that he was set to sign for Chelsea before their transfer ban last year. Is he really THAT good? Do you think he could make it at an elite Premier League club one day?
Andrew Penman: That link was all about his potential and it’s clear that he could be a very valuable asset one day. He’s got the talent to make it at the top level but it’s all about finding the right club at the moment to improve and progress.
1912 Exiles Podcast: If he is playing football, he can become an elite footballer. Playing u23 or sat on a bench won’t help him. He ran rings around Championship players in our cup run. Semenyo has all of the physical attributes that a top player needs to have - if he can keep improving at the rate he is. he could definitely make it that far.
RR: How did he fare at Newport? Did you expect him to go back and be a first teamer at Bristol?
Andrew Penman: He only scored six goals in 36 appearances but he was a constant menace to opposition defences and a real creative spark as well as a goal threat. He put in a superb performance in the Exiles’ FA Cup win against Leicester City and was very hard to replace when he was recalled by Bristol last January. I thought he had a chance of breaking into the Bristol team but I’m not too surprised that they’ve sent him out on loan to gain more experience.
1912 Exiles Podcast: He did very well at Newport. He only played around 1400 minutes but he was the one player that could collect the ball and take it up field at his feet. He wasn’t afraid to take risks. I thought he was going back to be sold, disappointed he hasn’t played more for Bristol. People may recall his performance against Leicester in the FA Cup - Danny Simpson has truly never recovered from the mauling he gave him! Unfortunately, he didn’t get too many opportunities when he went back to Bristol City, and it’s fair to say that he may have been better off with us for the rest of last season.
RR: What about him endeared him to the Newport supporters?
Andrew Penman: His attitude was always spot on. Sometimes you get the feeling that players joining on loan from big clubs are not that interested but he was fully committed and was a very positive presence on and off the pitch. He was never overawed by the physical nature of League Two or the prospect of playing bigger teams in the cups.
1912 Exiles Podcast: He is a flair player, you don’t get a lot of this at Newport. But he was strong, and quick, it was hard to get him off the ball when he was running. Antoine’s effort and work-rate was great - he played with a big smile on his face too.
RR: Sunderland play in a 3-4-2-1 system. Can you see him fitting into that formation easily, and if so, in which position?
Andrew Penman: Yes, he can play anywhere across the front line. He was probably at his best at Newport as a wide player cutting in from either flank to support a central striker or strikers.
1912 Exiles Podcast: For us, Semenyo played either up top or out wide on the left-hand side - he could probably sit off a main striker too. When he collects the ball, he’s good at coming inside and moving into good positions and creating in tight spaces.
RR: Sunderland are desperate for some direct, pacy options in attack. What sort of attributes will Semenyo offer us?
Andrew Penman: Exactly that, he’s quick and not afraid to take on his man and go for goal at every opportunity.
1912 Exiles Podcast: Despite being incredibly young when he came to us, physically Antoine was an absolute beast - he’s strong and quick. He could be very, very scary if he continues to develop at the rate he is. During his Newport time his attacking numbers we’re similar to players like Kaiyne Woolery, Ilias Chair, Rhys Healey - he’s an extremely attack minded player you would want starting every game.
RR: What are the biggest weaknesses in his game? Where does he need to improve?
Andrew Penman: He’s a good finisher but did occasionally snatch at chances. That composure should come with experience.
1912 Exiles Podcast: His decision making was not always great, and as you go up levels and the game speeds up that is what can sometimes separate those that ‘make it’ from those that do not.
RR: What would you say to any Sunderland fans who aren’t sure about us making this signing?
Andrew Penman: Give him a chance. There’s definitely a player there, and if he’s given a run of games he will make a positive impact at that level.
1912 Exiles Podcast: He is very raw but is a real talent. It might sound obvious, but the more game experience he gets, the better he will get. Give him a chance to show his quality!