Jewison Bennette and I share one thing in common: we were both born in the 2000s, and that’s where the similarities end!
I can’t say that I’ve ever played in a World Cup for my country, moved halfway across the world to take up a footballing opportunity, or ever played first team football for Sunderland.
It’s certainly been a memorable season for the Costa Rican.
After moving from his hometown, Heredia, to the North East in one of the most eye-catching moves of the Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman era, he also made the trip to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.
The signing was arguably the first illustration of the club’s new model: scouting a relatively unknown youngster with high ambitions and seeking to give him a chance on Wearside.
For the club, Bennette has simply been a steal. Not only do we boast a player with World Cup experience in our ranks, he’s someone who seems to have so much potential for the future.
However, his biggest issue this season has been a lack of game time.
The eighteen-year-old has only made one first team start under Tony Mowbray, playing fifty nine minutes in the third round of the FA Cup at Shrewsbury at the beginning of the year.
In the league, Mowbray has slowly phased Bennette into second tier action, with a total of 218 minutes for an average of around fifteen minutes per appearance.
So, as the season reaches its conclusion, is it time to give him more opportunities to show what he can do?
During the last couple of months, we’ve witnessed glimpses of what he’s all about, and although his equaliser at Vicarage Road made the greatest impact, it’s his only league goal of the campaign.
After Patrick Roberts dinked the ball into into the area, Bennette found himself in acres of space to chest the ball down before rifling a shot past the goalkeeper.
If his contribution in that game was impressive, he was no different against Fulham in the FA Cup replay.
After being brought on as a substitute, his persistence enabled him to open up some space in the penalty area before curling the ball into the corner of the net to give us a glimmer of hope in injury time.
In a way, it’s a shame that we haven’t seen more of what he can do.
The little bursts of speed, the composure in and around the penalty area and direct running with the ball are his main attributes, but his game time has been severely limited, largely due to the progress and quality of Amad, Roberts, and Jack Clarke.
However, for a player from such a background, the experience gained from his first year in England is arguably more important than time spent on the pitch.
Adapting to a new climate in a new country with a different language is likely to have been very tough for him, but with his family around him, there’s optimism about his future at the club.
In the latter stages of the season, we’ll hopefully we get to see more of the Costa Rican and his infectious personality on the pitch, but it may depend on our playoff chances.
After Wednesday’s defeat to Sheffield United and a tough game against Luton tomorrow, it’ll be hard for us to make our way into the top six, but you just don’t know what might happen.
For Bennette, it’s been a campaign of development and adapting to a new culture, regardless of what happens during the final nine games.
You’d hope that his recent months on Wearside have placed him in good stead to kick on during next season and beyond.