Matthew Crichton says... yes, he’s ready!
Should Benji Kimpioka accept the contract which has been offered to him by Sunderland, I believe he deserves a chance to compete for a first-team place in Phil Parkinson’s team.
Following the recent sale of Bali Mumba, many Sunderland fans have expressed their frustration at the club’s failure to provide more youth players with high potential first-team exposure. Kimpioka is in my opinion (excluding Elliot Embleton) Sunderland’s best academy prospect who has yet to receive a real chance to play regular football. Should the club fail to tie him down to a new deal, it will be another case of a player leaving the Stadium of Light without the club seeing their true ability.
The Sweden under-21 international has been restricted to an array of cameo appearances off the bench in League One, with his most prominent contribution being a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Coventry. However, Kimpioka received most of his first-team opportunities within the club’s successful EFL Trophy campaign under Jack Ross, scoring against Carlisle and Newcastle U23s. Other than that, he has rarely been selected by Sunderland despite the club’s failure to find a regular goal scorer since Josh Maja left.
If Sunderland’s transfer budget is minimal whilst a takeover over is complete, plus if the EFL implement the proposed wage caps, how does it make sense to allow a Swedish under-21 international who has showed positive signs within the first-team leave for a minimal fee? It does not make sense to spend money or provide high wages to a new player, when the club can provide opportunities to younger players who are already within the club. Players like Denver Hume received vast scrutiny at first, yet he has now developed into a clear first-choice in his position.
The current Sunderland squad is lacking height and pace, two attributes the 20-year-old possesses. Admittedly, Kimpioka is raw and does need time to develop, but Sunderland are likely to play 50-55 matches across the 2020/21 season, so having squad depth and providing game-time to younger players is essential for the development of the club.
Overall, I do not believe the club’s recruitment team would be able to sign a young player with the potential of Kimpioka. The club have already lost an array of young players during this transfer window, it is now time they start giving more youth players a chance. Kimpioka at least deserves a chance in pre-season to prove to Phil Parkinson he has the ability to fight for a first-team place!
Gav says... no!
Whilst I’m very keen on Kimpioka and believe that he could turn into a very decent player, I’m worried about just how raw he is, and how a club in our situation really can’t afford to give someone who is so unpredictable a chance just yet.
Other youngsters like Jack Diamond have gone out on loan and cut their cloth accordingly, and that to me is what Benji needs next - a move to a League Two or low-end Scottish Premiership team who can give him the 40+ games a season he needs in the 2020/21 season to really kick on and improve his all-round game.
I’m very passionate about youth development and believe that there’s a proper way to do it. Unless a young player is spectacularly good, there should be a proper development plan in place. The likes of Benji should have over 50 first team games under their belts before they’re ready for Sunderland’s first team.
I guess it depends on Benji and where he sees himself. Does he believe at this stage that he’s good enough to play ahead of experienced forwards like Maguire, Gooch and O’Brien? Would he not prefer to go out on loan and get the games and experience he needs to not only enhance his chances of making it at Sunderland, but to give his career the correct platform for further improvement?
I want him to stay of course, but I want there to be recognition that he’s proven nothing yet, and that if he signs a new deal he does so in the knowledge that there are no guarantees, and that he has to leave Wearside and spread his wings.