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Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Midfield Maestros: Why the success of ‘Mini Messi’ & Embo has been a joy to witness

Two players who have been marginal at times this season proved their worth in emphatic style against Reading on Wednesday - and it was a joy to witness it!

Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Hundreds of gushing words dedicated to Elliot Embleton and Patrick Roberts will have flowed on the internet in the last two days, and deservedly so.

Embleton’s role in our win over Reading at the Select Car Leasing Stadium (what a wonderfully banal name, by the way), was fantastic.

Undeterred by losing our only fit out and out striker, Ellis Simms, to injury, Sunderland were propelled to victory by Embleton, who came on to replace him.

His driving forward runs were Embo at his best, delivering moments reminiscent of the majestic solo goal he scored at Wembley back in May.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Naturally, Patrick Roberts will probably get even more plaudits. Sky Sports rightly gave him Man of the Match (lest they incur the television punching wrath of our own Phil West), with his quick-fire first half double sending Sunderland on course to victory.

Reading will surely be sore about conceding two such similar goals in succession, with Roberts cutting inside onto his left foot on both occasions. But honestly, which Sunderland fan cares? His deft dribbling and calm finishes were joyous.

I’m still drooling over them now!

What I’d like to emphasise most though, is that the performance of these two continued the wonderful trend of new players proving their worth on an almost weekly basis.

I’ve already said this season that the renaissance of Jack Clarke has laid to rest some doubts I had about him last season. Roberts and Embleton, meanwhile, were two players I loved watching at the back end of last season, but who had both had slightly concerning slow starts this time around.

Neither of them have had huge amounts of game time, to be fair to them, but both had been pretty anonymous so far this season until this most recent masterclass. Tony Mowbray has questioned why Roberts in particular hasn’t played more football this season, and well might fans have done the same.

Embleton’s cameo against Norwich and Roberts’ unexpected start against Middlesbrough come to mind as examples of the two of them both struggling to make a strong impact when given the chance.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I’ll admit to having been worried about Elliot Embleton specifically.

Patrick Roberts has proven he has the class to play at this level, whereas this season represents the first step up into the Championship for Embleton. It seemed as though he might end up being a fringe player in this higher league, especially with Alex Pritchard for competition in arguably his best position.

With the hindsight of Wednesday night, I think I was wrong to be worried.

Embleton, even in League One, was a player capable of both periods where things didn’t come off for him, as well as times when he did some quite sublime things. Manager and fans alike just have to give him some patience in order to see him blossom.

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

And neither he nor Roberts have really had a fair crack of the whip yet this season, in large part due to the excellent performances of those rivalling them for starting slots.

It is hardly surprising that Roberts wasn’t at his mercurial best against Middlesbrough, having not expected to start until minutes before kick off.

Likewise, one of Embleton’s rare starts was covering for Corry Evans against Stoke - it seems unfair to compare Embleton to Evans directly as they provide very different qualities.

So, while we will all be hoping that Ellis Simms’ injury is not too serious, I for one am revelling in this moment.

Yet again, Sunderland have put the show on the road away from home. In doing so, the depth of our squad has come to the fore. Yes, our squad isn’t the biggest in the league. But to lose two of our best attackers and actually play even better is a fantastic endorsement of the squad and management we have at the club right now.

We’ve proven that we’ve not just got Stewart and Simms - we’ve got Pritchard, Clarke, Embleton, and Roberts too!

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

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