I’ll let the other lads talk about Embo - Kimpioka absolutely has to make it here this season if it’s ever going to happen.
His loan at Torquay hasn’t been a total success - he’s struggled with injury and then only really had a role to play from the bench, but they’ve had a fantastic season and forcing his way into a promotion-chasing side, one that is already settled, is tough. You could argue that sending him to a team where he was going to struggle to get in wasn’t particularly wise, given he would have probably been better off playing and starting more than he has.
That said, having to move away from Sunderland to an unfamiliar place could have a real positive impact down the line - a good grounding, perhaps. Kimpioka’s now got to come back to Sunderland with the right attitude and mentality.
He should be sharp in pre-season given his season has carried on longer than it has for the first team here at Sunderland - that could be a massive leg-up for him when we start playing games, and it’s a fight to stand out and impress the manager.
The fact Kimpioka has raw pace and power means he’s got a huge chance to force his way in - and I genuinely think that he will. His end product has to improve, of course, but I think that he’s got the ability to do it.
Philip West says...
Simply put, yes, I do believe that the 2021/2022 season will represent the breakthrough for the likes of Elliot Embleton, Benji Kimpioka, and hopefully even more of our academy-bred players such as Josh Hawkes and Oliver Younger.
With the club’s academy undoubtedly on an upward curve and (hopefully) a new ethos being implemented, one that invests in young, hungry players, this is as good a time as any as any for a major shift. Kristjaan Speakman has already made it clear that opportunities will be afforded to the players mentioned above, and if this promise is fulfilled, it could be an exciting vision of the future.
If you look at Elliot Embleton, his loan spell at Blackpool has certainly been of significant benefit to him. He’s reaped the rewards of regular game time, and was undoubtedly an important player as the Tangerines achieved promotion to the Championship.
He undoubtedly returns to the Stadium of Light as an improved player, and, given the need for more creativity in midfield, it would be no surprise to see him making a very strong case for first-team selection during pre-season.
On the other side of the argument, it is certainly fair to say that Embleton cannot be classed as a ‘kid’ any longer, and he will know that he must establish himself as a first-team regular now, or risk watching his Sunderland career drift away. That is not to put undue pressure on him, but that is simply the fast-moving nature of modern-day football. Take your chance when it appears, or watch as somebody else nips in and grabs it.
2021/2022 will be another slog of a season, with a packed schedule of fixtures and tough demands on our squad. The league will be (quite rightly) the principal focus, and in an ideal world, our frontline first eleven would contain a mixture of proven League One-standard players, mixed with some exciting homegrown prospects.
I do believe that the talent is there, but faith and trust must be placed in them, from both coaches & fans alike. If that happens, it could bring huge benefits to the club as we aim for success next season.
Ant Waterson says...
You would say this is surely make or break for both this season.
Being a Sacriston lad myself, I have followed Embleton’s career with great interest. Its safe to say that injuries have cost him so far, but he hasn’t yet made his stamp on his few Sunderland appearances so far.
A superb loan spell at Blackpool resulting in them going up has certainly got interest in him from other clubs but I fully expect him to be starting regular next season for us. A number ten role behind the striker I can see him flourishing in. The manager needs to trust him and give him a run of games. He has got the talent, it’s time the Sunderland fans got to see him display it in a red and white strip.
As far as Kimpioka goes it’s also crunch time. I was surprised to see him return last season after his contract stand off, but he returned flying in the under 23s scoring a few goals before falling victim to a bad hamstring injury. A loan to Torquay seemed a good move but he didn’t do that well.
Benji has the pace and power to genuinely frighten sides and he brings another dimension to our attack. It will be hard to dislodge Stewart and Wyke if Wyke signs but Benji is more than capable of doing so. It’s time for the boys to become men