Sunderland’s victory at West Brom on Sunday also marked a third start for January recruit Pierre Ekwah.
During an impressive team performance, the young Frenchman certainly played his part, breaking up the play, carrying the ball well and laying off several good passes before being substituted in the sixty eighth minute as Tony Mowbray looked to go for the win.
It’s fair to say that it’s been a mixed bag for Ekwah so far, not least during his substitute appearance against Hull when he gave away a penalty in the last minute.
It was clear from his reaction that he thought he’d done the right thing in making a challenge whereas in his post-match interview, Mowbray called out his inexperience as part of his decision making at such a late stage in the game.
That penalty meant the game ended in a draw rather than a win for Sunderland and it could’ve easily put a psychological dent in Ekwah’s armour.
However, during the very next game against Cardiff, Mowbray showed full faith by selecting him from the start.
Some might say it was a brave or a smart ploy, but what you can also say is that there are plenty of managers out there who wouldn’t have backed their player in such an emphatic fashion,
Effectively, he was saying, ‘You cocked up and cost us two points last weekend, but you’re starting the next game, 100%’.
Can you imagine someone like Jose Mourinho backing a player like that?
Cardiff was only Ekwah’s second senior start and apart from one unnecessary corner conceded and a couple of misplaced passes, for me he started to catch the eye. From the positions he was taking up to when he was receiving the ball and laying off some good passes, at times he looked like ‘The Man’.
Essentially, he’s a big physical presence in the middle of the pitch who can also play, the kind of box-to-box midfielder that we’ve needed since... forever!
He’s completely raw and his performances reflect that, but it’s fair to say that I for one like the look of him.
As one of our French contingent, he’d already accumulated some pedigree before he arrived at the Academy of Light, with two years at West Ham where he made a few U21 appearances in the EFL Trophy, which was preceded by three years at Chelsea with no senior appearances.
The raw edges will be refined with more games and if we do make it into the playoffs, he’s likely to be involved as it’s obvious that Mowbray views him as being good enough to make a squad contribution at least.
As fans, it would be worth remembering that we’re watching a raw talent, and we shouldn’t hang him out to dry when he makes his next misplaced pass or gives away a foul in the last minute.
Patience is a commodity that the fans should show with both him and the other largely untested players in our squad, because if he can develop the obvious talent that he has, we’ll all feel the benefit.