This evening it has been confirmed that Sunderland midfielder Jay Matete has joined up with League One leaders Plymouth Argyle for the remainder of the season, with the view to gaining valuable experience out on the pitch which will stand him in good stead when he returns to the club in the summer.
The 21-year-old former Fleetwood Town man has found opportunities hard to come by on Wearside this season and despite never letting himself down, he’s not been handed many opportunities at all - starting just once in the league since our promotion.
Speaking to SAFC.com, Sunderland’s Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman explained the thinking behind allowing him to leave the club:
Jay made an immediate and positive impact last season and he was a huge part of our promotion.
He’s worked tirelessly during the current campaign but found limited opportunities, so it’s only right for his development that we seek an option to get him more playing time in the right environment.
Plymouth represents a great opportunity for Jay, as he joins a team in great form where the demands and expectations are high.
We feel this best places him for a return to SAFC in the summer and we wish him well at Home Park.
Plymouth boss Steven Schumacher was clearly delighted with his latest acquisition, and told www.pafc.co.uk:
I am delighted that Jay Matete has agreed to join us at Plymouth Argyle.
He is another young, talented and hungry player added to the squad that will strengthen our chances to stay at the top end of this division.
Jay’s performance data from last season was outstanding, which led Sunderland to pay a big fee and take him from Fleetwood Town. He then gained invaluable experience of competing at the top of end of League One to eventually gain a promotion to the Championship.
We hope that Jay can bring his quality to Argyle and add some extra bite and aggressiveness to our midfield area.
I have to admit that I’m a little bit frustrated by the whole situation with Matete, but this news comes as no surprise to anyone.
Given the complete lack of playing time he’s received it makes sense to let him go out on loan, and we can at least take heart from the fact he’s going to be playing for the best team in the league below, with a view to gaining another promotion from the division whilst gaining valuable experience that will come from playing regularly.
I’ve been a big fan of Matete whenever he’s played for Sunderland, and he’s never let himself down. If anything, he’s been a victim of the good form and fitness of Corry Evans, who is of course our captain and such an important part of the team.
That said, there have been times this season where players have been out of form or certain games called for a more physically robust midfield option, yet Matete has always been overlooked. Why, we have no idea, but he’s found himself way down the pecking order through no real fault of his own.
When he signed he came with high hopes and I specifically recall a conversation I had at the time whereby I was told that the club’s long term vision for Matete was for him to be paired with Dan Neil in the Championship - in fact, it was thought that Stuart Harvey saw the midfield duo of Neil and Matete as the best young pairing in the entire EFL.
Whilst he hasn’t quite hit those heights yet, all is certainly not lost, and given his age, his time here surely isn’t done. If he can go to Plymouth and prove that he’s as good as we think he is - perhaps with another promotion on his CV - then an improved and hungry Jay Matete could be a real force next season in a Sunderland shirt.
To any Plymouth supporters reading this - you are getting a really promising young player with a fantastic, infectious attitude and a tonne of untapped ability. He’s robust, physically competitive and dogged in his approach. Yes, he’s very raw and clearly lacking in experience, but there won’t be many better midfielders in League One this season if he gets going, so be patient and I’m sure you’ll see the best from him.
With Jay out of the picture now at Sunderland, it leads you to wonder what we’ve got in store for the rest of the window - we aren’t exactly flush with midfield options, so does this indicate that another player is on the way in? One can only hope.