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Where is Jay Matete?

“Most fans would agree that Sunderland need some physicality in midfield - so what if the solution is right under our noses? My guess, I fear, is that we’ll never know.”

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I’m not really sure where this particular piece is going, but I just wanted to get some thoughts down about a player who I really think deserves more of a chance than he’s had under Tony Mowbray this season - Jay Matete.

Here are the facts: he’s started in a grand total of ONE league game this season, away at Stoke in Alex Neil’s last game in charge, but he was taken off at half time - and hasn’t been seen in a starting lineup since.

In all, he’s made six substitute appearances in the Championship aside from that solitary start, and I have to wonder why... why is it that he’s been nowhere to be seen?

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For the most part, this season has gone well for Sunderland. The football has been good, results have generally been good, and there have been no real complaints about team selection or tactics. And it may only be a small gripe, but I can’t really understand why Matete hasn’t been given a fair chance to show what he’s capable of.

The manager and coaches see him in training every day, so perhaps I’m just missing something, but I’d at least like to see the lad get a fair go at it.

Without naming names, other players seem to get plenty of chances yet haven’t put a string of consistent performances together all season - so why shouldn’t Jay get a chance to prove his worth when those in his position aren’t exactly pulling up trees?

As we head into the January transfer window there are a bunch of things I’d like to see the club address, and whilst I fully expect Matete to leave so he can go and play regular football elsewhere, I think it’d be a crying shame for that to happen when he hasn’t even been given a chance to do that for Sunderland.

We’re desperate for physicality in midfield, and of all the options we have in the centre of the park not called Corry Evans, I’d say Matete is the one who can offer us that.

He’s not the silkiest passer of the ball that we have but he is very good at winning back the ball, retaining possession and providing us with defensive cover - something I feel has been lacking in recent games in the side.

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We may well go out and sign a better quality midfielder that can offer us all of those things, and that is great, but before that time I’d like to see Matete given a fair crack of the whip.

After all, there haven’t been too many transfer flops during the Speakman and Harvey regime, but letting a midfielder who cost us a pretty penny slip through the net without having been given a proper opportunity to showcase his talents would certainly be chalked down as a failure.

I could accept it if I felt Matete had been given a chance and had blown it, but he hasn’t. I’d concede that he’s not stood out like a sore thumb since arriving, but I have to ask - could anyone say with any conviction that he’s been given a proper chance?

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We’ve got a few weeks before the transfer window opens. Elliot Embleton looks set to spend a long stint out on the sidelines; Alex Pritchard has had a couple of niggles since we returned from the winter break; Dan Neil looks like he could use a rest and a spell out of the team; Luke O’Nien is needed in defence for the foreseeable future; Edouard Michut is never fit; and Abdoullah Ba still needs to adjust fully and compete.

So I ask this: why not give Jay Matete a proper chance to prove his worth?

If he blows it then fair enough, I’ll hold my hands up - and I’m sure that we won’t be short of potential suitors when the transfer window opens.

But until we can definitively say that this lad has been given a proper chance to prove himself, how can anyone say with conviction that he’s not good enough?

I’ve seen plenty of other players in his position get chance after chance after chance... and still we can’t make our minds up on them.

With Matete I can’t even say that, because nobody can argue that one start where he played for just 45 minutes is enough to properly judge him on, nor is it fair. Given the financial outlay on this lad, you’d think there’d be more expectation placed upon the coaching team to get a little bit more out of him - or at least attempt to.

If he goes this January without having been given a proper shot at playing in the Championship I’ll be disappointed, because there’s something telling me that with a fair amount of time and patience he could be just what we need in the middle of the park.

Most fans would agree that we need some physicality in midfield - so what if the solution is right under our noses? My guess, I fear, is that we’ll never know.

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