Let’s go all the way back to January, when your club signed Jay Matete on loan. What were your initial impressions of the signing?
AL: Initial thoughts were brilliant. He was our 4th signing of the window, despite it only being the 6th of January. Not something we’ve experienced before. He met up with the squad and signed the deal in the hotel the night before we played Bolton Wanderers, making his debut off the bench in the 2nd half.
It all happened quite fast - we’d just lost Morgan Whittaker who’d been recalled by Swansea and Matete refilled our quota of available loans but reinforcing our midfield options - of which he was now 1 of 4.
Our play has been a little different since then. Matete reminded me of Panuche Camara - who your fans may remember for his excellent display in that tight Easter fixture at Home Park; a leggy, hard-working defensive-minded midfielder who’s not afraid to get stuck in; but on the ball can drive into spaces but then lets the more creative players take over.
Initially Matete looked a class above; strong in the challenge and very direct on the ball. We couldn’t really work out why he’d been loaned out especially in the midst of your injury crisis.
How has he done, then?
AL: Since his initial barnstorming introduction to life in green his minutes declined - Adam Randell’s return, Steven Schumacher’s need for rotation and his lust for a booking all aiding the decline. He was still a key part in our run to the title though.
What are some of the standout moments from Matete’s time at Home Park?
AL: I’d say most of his stand out moments have all been off the bench.
His introduction was usually game changing; namely his 9 minute cameo up in Morecambe. A goal and an assist, to help turn around a 1-0 deficit, showcased what he’s capable of - direct, quick and strong. The Assist coming 120 seconds in, purely from his relentless pressing.
Back at Home Park, his run upfield from the edge of our own box, fending off 3 players in the process, to tee up Sam Cosgrove for a tap-in to seal a win over Cheltenham Town, another highlight. One to seek out on YouTube, for sure.
We set an EFL record for goals from substitutes this season, Matete was a huge contributor to that.
What sort of role has he played in your side?
AL: There’s not really been a single stand out performer in our side - this was evident in our own Argyle Life End of Season Awards Pod. We had about 8 players all capable of winning the main gong.
Steven Schumacher’s insistence on rotation meant no one really got runs in the side, but also kept everyone ready and raring to go.
As mentioned, his cameos off the bench were phenomenal and game changing. However, if he could calm his temperament a little, thus reducing the amount of cards he collects, I could see him being a real asset to any EFL side.
What do you think Matete might have learned from the experience?
AL: I’m not too sure - you’d have to ask him!
In all seriousness, I hope it’s taught him that he needs to work on his 90 minute fitness. Again - phenomenal in short sharp bursts - not so much from the off.
Off the pitch? That we’re a bigger club than many realise with a huge travelling support who don’t know when we’re beaten.
Sunderland fans will be expecting our young side to be challenging again towards the top end of the Championship next season - do you think Matete still has a role to play?
AL: I wouldn’t be so sure. Depends how you’d like him to develop. Off the bench as a game changer to add legs and fire into the midfield, sure!
If you want him to develop his temperament and channel his aggression the right way then a season-long loan to a club pushing for promotion from League One would be suitable.
He’s clearly got the talent - but I think if Sunderland are looking to push for promotion next season, another League One loan would be the best option for Jay. Another club looking to push for promotion, but one in which he could stamp his mark on and collect regular minutes week in week out would be perfect.
I’d love to see him return to us - however I’m not sure we can guarantee him the minutes he’d like at this stage of his career.
Would you like to see Plymouth make a permanent move for Matete in the summer?
AL: I’d love to see it, mainly as we appear to have a long-term strategy of investing in youth and given time Matete could be one hell of a player with significant sell on value too.
However, 2 starts in his last 8 games, one being the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Bolton Wanderers at Wembley alongside the huge financial outlay needed makes me strongly believe that any permanent move would be highly unlikely.