A very excited Benji Kimpioka took just 123 seconds to score his first senior goal for Sunderland, in his full debut against Carlisle last night and had this to say afterwards: "I'm very happy and very proud. It's always good to get the win and also score a goal. Every day I work hard for the opportunities like this and I got one which I'm very thankful for. I thank God and I thank the manager. It's a massive bonus to get the goal and it's just motivation to go on and get more. I should have scored more, with the header and the other chance. I should score those chances, but you have to be patient. Hopefully I got more and I'll make sure I score them. Things are going really well and the squad feels like a family. For example, Max Power is new here and yet it feels like he's been here ages, always helping the young players so I'm very grateful."
It was a good night for the young guns and Jack Ross was delighted with them all. "Tonight, the bench was all U23's, with the exception of Luke O'Nien who has been suffering from illness," Ross said. "They all played last night so we had to wait and see how the game panned out. Jack Diamond is a good player, he showed that in his time on the pitch. He has a really good ability to take the ball on the half-turn and go forward, he drifts past people so easily. There's loads of things for him to improve on, we've actually been feeding information to him and in the recent U23's games he's taken that on board, which is really good. So that was fitting reward for him."
"Lee Connelly has an infectious way of playing," he added. "The energy he has is great. He's still a very young man. For those three lads, Benji starting and the two who came on, you can never predict how their career is going to go. I would hope that for all three this is just the start. It could be the pinnacle, which I don't mean in a negative manner, you just don't know. So, for all three, they'll look back on this with pride, to be part of the first team and contribute to a win. I'm delighted for them and it is reflective of the work that goes on in the academy. It's important to stress that you shouldn't be judged on U23 results, you should be judged on the number of players you produce for the first team. The academy has a good track record of doing that and it is continuing to do that. From what I've seen, it is going to keep doing that in the future as well."
U23 boss Elliott Dickman is delighted at the respect his young players are being given. "The support that the first team staff have given this group of players is phenomenal and it’s quite unique," he said. "I haven’t seen that for a while. There have been managers who have supported it, but now have first team staff in the dressing room after the game talking to the lads and that shows we’re all one and all want what’s best for the players - and that’s to play first team football."
With our game against Blackpool postponed, the gaffer is looking forward to a weekend chilling out with his family. “We’ll do some recovery work and have some time off at the end of the week and over the weekend, and then come back on Monday,” said Ross. “It’s a good time for us to have a breather, because you don’t often get that in this league. We’ll take advantage of that. I wanted us to finish this little part of the season on a high and I’m pleased we’ve done that, it means they go away positive and upbeat. I think they’ll come back with renewed energy again. It was a good night for us because these games can be difficult sometimes, but there were more good things than bad. The second half was good, the first half was a wee bit flat - that goes with the surroundings tonight, because it was a very different atmosphere to what we are used to. I spent most of the second half watching the game from higher up and I enjoyed it. It was a good night for us, we wanted to win the game and we want to progress in this tournament. When you come into the season you know these fixtures are here, and it is a group format now it adds to the congestion. But there is a big prize at the end of it, it’s silverware, it’s a game at the national stadium, so I don’t think you can ignore that. Our approach has reflected that, and our players’ mindsets have shown that. Both teams I have sent out in the two group games so far have approached the matches with the right attitude and in the correct manner.”