Sunday morning had me waking up feeling slightly hungover and thankful for Sunderland being class, and I was even more grateful to West Ham and David Moyes for selling us Pierre Ekwah.
Over the last six months, the big central midfielder has taken huge strides forward and during the 5-0 win against Southampton, he came into his own.
For ninety minutes, he bossed the play in the middle and put in the kind of display that many Sunderland fans feel we’ve often missed.
He took us forward, held the line very well, and he did so with terrific support from Dan Neil. Despite barely playing twenty games of senior football, Ekwah is now one of the first names on the team sheet, and his composure on the ball coupled with an attacking mentality is turning him into a genuine all-round midfielder.
His two goals were well-taken and well finished, and his regathering of possession, slick move to beat his man and pinpoint finish for his second and our third was an absolute joy to watch.
Ekwah is someone who’s clearly relishing every kick at Sunderland, and his celebration of bowing to the Roker End sums up just how down to earth he is.
It’s also worth noting that on Saturday, he also put in a real shift defensively, and several of our attacks began with him. He’s light on his feet and can get stuck in whenever he needs to.
Few Sunderland midfielders in recent years have looked so composed in possession than Ekwah, and it needs to be said just how much he’s grown into his role.
Tony Mowbray has created a central midfield pairing the likes of which we’ve not seen for far too long, comprised of two young lads who are loving every moment and improving as footballers with every game.
They compliment each other well and it’s no surprise that four of our goals this season have featured some involvement from our central midfielders.
Ekwah rarely plays without a smile on his face, and his post-match interview on Saturday summed up his mindset, and the vibe this Sunderland team has created.
When asked by Sky Sports what it’s like to play in a young team, he replied by saying that ‘it’s just like playing football in the park with his mates’, and that’s exactly why watching players like Ekwah is such a joy.
All of these lads are playing for each other and the badge, and after years of useless, feckless mercenaries pulling on a red and white shirt for little more than a pay day, it’s extremely refreshing.
The signing of Ekwah back in January is a fine example of our model at work, and it also highlights exactly why we shouldn’t write young players off after one mistake.
We all remembered his clumsy tackle to concede a last-minute penalty in the 4-4 draw against Hull, but what we also need to remember is how three days later, Mowbray handed him a start in the 1-0 win at Cardiff, and he’s since grown as a player at a ridiculous speed.
We do lack depth in midfield until Jay Matete returns from injury, but Ekwah has nailed down a place in the centre of the park and I can’t wait to see just how much more he can improve at Sunderland.