When he arrived on Wearside earlier in the summer, the first thing that struck me about Jobe Bellingham was his confident and impressively composed manner.
During his first interview after signing his contract, you couldn’t fail to notice how well he spoke and how focused and level headed he clearly was. There was no trace of nerves and no hint of being overawed by the transition from St Andrews- just a steely determination to make the most of the chance he’d been given.
Our pursuit of the former Birmingham midfielder had been well documented before the deal was completed and when he signed on the dotted line, there was much intrigue.
How would the younger brother of England’s most expensive player adapt to life at Sunderland? Could he forge a path of his own and prove that the Bellingham surname isn’t a millstone around his neck?
A mere three league games into his career in red and white, however, we’re starting to see some seriously exciting glimpses of the talent that Bellingham possesses. He’d made positive impressions against Ipswich and at Deepdale, but as we returned to home action against Rotherham, he kicked his game into a higher gear, and to brilliant effect.
His two-goal contribution and all round performance on Saturday, which helped us to secure a nerve-calming victory over the Millers, proved that of our seven summer arrivals, he’s been the standout addition by a country mile.
This isn’t to say that his fellow Stadium of Light new boys won’t eventually prove their worth this season, but the fact that Tony Mowbray has placed such faith in the seventeen-year-old speaks volumes. Yes, his workload will need to be managed in order to avoid the risk of burnout but at this stage, he already seems to be an automatic pick.
You can’t really overlook the fact that Jobe looks more like a veteran of two hundred games rather than someone who, let’s face it, is still finding his way in the Championship. More experienced and well-travelled players have folded like an accordion under the gaze of 40,000 expectant home supporters, but he simply takes it in his stride.
Against the Millers on Saturday, he was superb, floating around the pitch, constantly picking up dangerous positions and always seeking to be positive with the ball. His first goal was crucial and his second was composure personified.
This was augmented by a good work rate and no shirking when it came to tracking back and putting in the hard yards. It was an immensely impressive display and the reception he was afforded when he was replaced late in the game was fully deserved.
Pre-match, I was convinced that Alex Pritchard would take Jobe’s place for this game, not least because I think there’s something in the argument that Bellingham isn’t an orthodox number ten, but Mowbray stuck with him and was rewarded once again.
In terms of how they see things on the pitch and how they play the game, I see some distinct similarities between Jobe and his fellow youth prodigy Chris Rigg.
They're both blessed with superb technique, the vision to pick passes, and a carefree, impudent approach that’s always been well received by our supporters.
It’s true that there may be some debate about where Bellingham’s ‘natural’ position is- we’re not short of talented attacking midfielders, after all- but on the other hand, perhaps he’s simply one of those footballers that you can’t really pigeonhole and who’s most likely to make an impact in a freer role.
Give him the confidence to perform and the backing that any young player needs, and as we've seen so far, he’ll deliver.
It’s important to caveat the praise for Jobe by remembering that he’ll doubtless endure dips in form as the season unfolds, but you get a sense that he’ll simply take them in his stride, keep his head up, and emerge an even better player for the experience.
Saturday was a great day all round for the Bellingham family as the brothers made hugely telling contributions for their respective clubs- Jude in the bright lights of La Liga and Jobe in front of 40,000 vocal supporters closer to home.
If he continues to progress at the rate he currently is, it adds even more weight to the argument that we’ve managed to bring another truly exciting young footballer to the Stadium of Light- and he should also feel free to wear whatever name he likes on the back of his shirt, too!