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Sunderland v Southampton FC - Sky Bet Championship

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Sunderland AFC: A team of canny lads

Sunderland’s team morale is at what feels like an all-time high, and our young squad continues to do themselves and us fans proud.

Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images

Full time at the Stadium of Light on Saturday saw our young squad soaking up the celebrations following a near-perfect display.

Four of our five goals were scored by players under the age of 22, with the icing on the cake being 16-year-old Chris Rigg bagging his first senior league goal.

Jewison Benette who, having moved halfway across the world and speaking little to no English, was given a key role in lapping up the celebrations, with Luke O’Nien making sure he went to the Roker End at full time to take in the much deserved applause.

Bennette’s superb assist for Rigg was not only two examples of the model at work combing, but it also showcased just how class and down to earth the par are.

This can be extended to the entire squad, who have continued this season to look as though they are enjoying their football. Jack Clarke, despite us being told by reporters that he wanted away, came sprinting towards the South West Corner after scoring his goal on Saturday.

If that’s a player who wants to leave Sunderland, then he’s a remarkably good actor as well as footballer. Clarke was back to his best against Southampton, and support from his other midfielders and Dennis Cirkin behind him helped this to come to fruition.

Sunderland v Southampton FC - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Our starting line-up on Saturday had an average age of 22.3. Without Luke O’Nien and Bradley Dack, this age would be lower still.

Despite the youth element, we dismantled a team who had not lost this season and who had a lot of Premier League experience mixed around. Youth has been trusted in this new Sunderland, and we have continued to be rewarded for this.

Chris Rigg being shown his goal back from Saturday was a wholesome moment, and both on and off the pitch it’s hard to comprehend that he’s just 16. The smile on his face when watching his goal back was a sure fire example of him living the dream of thousands of Sunderland fans and scoring for our club.

Sunderland AFC of 2023 is a group of canny lads who just love playing football together. We have a brilliant core of young lads, with a decent sprinkling of experience.

I think we all expected more of the senior players to leave in the transfer window and, although several have departed, the early signs are that the likes of Pritchard, Dack and O’Nien will be able to step up.

Sunderland v Southampton FC - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Pierre Ekwah’s post-match interview following the Southampton match summed up our squad. He compared playing for Sunderland to playing football in your park with your mates, and if that isn’t the kind of attitude you’ll want from your club, I don’t know what is.

The good vibes at Sunderland AFC are plentiful at the moment, and the international break gives time for the new lads to settle in, and more time for those with lingering knocks to get further back towards a full recovery.

Our positions will soon be stacked with a mix of promising new players and a crop of still young but increasingly experienced footballers, and if the feel-good factor surrounding the 5-0 win against Southampton is a microcosm of the rest of the season, we are in for a hell of a campaign.

All us Sunderland fans want is a team who put the graft in and who look like they want to be at this football club. With this group, we have all of this and much, much more...


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