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Sunderland

Sebastian Coates the latest ex-Sunderland star to shine at World Cup

Plenty of former Sunderland players are playing starring roles at the World Cup this summer.

Mathew Nash

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Last season was yet another undignified slog from Sunderland. Fans watched in despair as the club went through two top managers and plummeted to the bottom of the Championship table.

In the end, the Black Cats were relegated to League One, which is why watching the World Cup is something of a strange sensation for Sunderland fans.

Many of the players who have come and gone at the Stadium of Light down the years are now shining on the brightest stage.

Last night, Uruguay took on Russia and Sebastian Coates came in at centre-back for the South Americans. He put in a solid performance as Uruguay won 3-0.

The 27-year-old defender spent 18 months as a Sunderland player before heading to Sporting Lisbon after Sam Allardyce decided to move him on.

(Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

Then there is Ola Toivonen. He so nearly dumped Germany out of the World Cup for Sweden the other night. The 31-year-old is widely considered one of Sunderland’s worst signings in recent memory.

Those two are not alone. Sebastian Larsson is running the midfield for Sweden. Wahbi Khazri is captaining Tunisia and scored vs Belgium. Then there is Alfred N’Diaye, Adnan Januzaj and Jordan Pickford – the list goes on.

Two years ago, at Euro 2016, it was the swashbuckling performances of Italian wideman Emanuele Giaccherini that had Sunderland fans scratching their head.

Once again it seems Sunderland have had good players over the years, who have just not had the time or right atmosphere to showcase it.

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Sunderland

Benjamin Kimpioka could be Sunderland’s secret weapon this season

The Swedish winger looks set for a season in the Sunderland first-team mix.

Mathew Nash

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After two relegations in a row, Sunderland are looking to bounce back next season in League One. They have a new manager, a new owner and plenty of new faces among the first-team squad. One of the new names in the first-team picture is Benjamin Kimpioka.

The exciting winger scored a great goal against Hartlepool in a recent friendly and excited fans with his brilliant and extravagant performance.

He is not a new signing, but an academy graduate who joined Sunderland in the spring of 2016. Following a successful trial and subsequent visits, the summer previous Sunderland snapped up Kimpioka on his first scholarship deal in April 2016 from the academy at IK Sirius.


“I look forward to going over and settling in Sunderland to focus and do what I’m passionate about, to play football.

“No matter how it goes, I’m grateful and see this as an experience for life,”

– Benjamin Kimpioka after signing for Sunderland 

 


Capable of playing through the middle but more comfortable as a winger he had a fine season for Sunderland’s under-18s last season – scoring 10 and assisting three goals in 12 appearances.

 

That sort of form has seen him moved into the first-team for pre-season and he seemingly appears to have no plans of heading back down.

(Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images)

For Sunderland, it would be perfect if the 18-year-old was now ready to run with the first-team. It would add another dimension in Sunderland’s currently mediocre attacking options and give fans a breath of fresh air.

An under the radar signing from April 2016, when Sunderland started their demise down the football ladder, could end up being the surprise package in their redemption.

That would be quite the tale.

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Sunderland

Sunderland must not rely on Josh Maja up front next season

Sunderland are currently lacking in striking options.

Mathew Nash

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It has been a tough week at Sunderland. The Black Cats have lost two of their top young attacking talents. Swedish forward Joel Asoro looks set for Swansea City after the two teams agreed on a fee. They also lost 16-year-old Sam Greenwood. He has agreed to join Arsenal’s youth system. It leaves Sunderland in a massive predicament in the attacking department.

Sunderland have hardly any strikers left on board, after the loan of Ashley Fletcher ended the Black Cats are very short up front. With James Vaughan and Lewis Grabban departing last season they are now stuck with just one striking option. The player in question is 19-year-old Josh Maja.

(Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)

The Londoner played 18 times for Sunderland last season, scoring just one goal. But he is a top talent for the future and Sunderland must ensure they keep hold of him and use him in League One.


“They (Maja and Bali Mumba) will stay. They want to be Sunderland players.”

– Sunderland chairman Stewart Donald on Maja’s future


However, Sunderland cannot rely on him. The Black Cats are still hunting for new recruits and at least two new frontmen are going to be needed in order for Sunderland to fight for promotion.

Maja is a brilliant talent, but putting the pressure on him to lead the line would be a big mistake from Sunderland this season.

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Sunderland

Returning Duncan Watmore will be like new signing for Sunderland

Sunderland will welcome the winger back to action in the Autumn.

Mathew Nash

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Sunderland manager Jack Ross has been updating the press on the injury status of attacker Duncan Watmore.

The 24-year-old suffered a second serious knee injury last November and has not played for the Black Cats since.

Speaking to the Sunderland Echo, the Scotsman confirmed that Watmore, who took part in Sunderland’s pre-season training camp in Portugal, should be back with the first-team by ‘late September, maybe October’.

Which will no doubt be like a new signing for the Wearside club.

When the powerful and energetic Watmore burst onto the scene at Sunderland in 2015-16 he was one of the shining lights in what was an otherwise disappointing campaign from the Black Cats. His direct and vibrant style of play was exactly what Sunderland needed as they survived relegation to the Championship by just two points from local rivals Newcastle United.

(Photo credit should read LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images)

Since then things have just not gone to plan for the attacker.

But he is a player that fans have a lot of time for and, in League One, he has all the attributes to be a star.

His strength and pace will be a major concern for most defenders in the division and Sunderland will no doubt enjoy having him back running the channels and stretching defences.

The former England under-21 international needs some good luck. If he can stay fit this season then Sunderland’s chances of a return to the second-tier will increase almost immediately.

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