Reece's Pieces

New SAFC left back Reece James reckons the passion he’s seen so far from Sunderland fans is incredible and that the players need to repay that with quality football: “I’ve only been here a few days but all around the town you just see Sunderland shirts everywhere,” explained James.“You see how much passion the fans have got for the club. At Darlington there were so many fans who had made the effort to travel and come and watch us play. You’ve only got to look at that to see how well supported this club is. It’s our duty now to make sure we gave them everything they should be able to watch – the quality of football and promotion.”

James was a free agent after being released by Wigan this month and it didn’t take long for Sunderland to snap him up. The speed of the move definitely caught him by surprise: “I had a phonecall and it all happened quite quickly. As soon as I heard Sunderland were interested I just wanted to come and sign. It was just a little bit too late to travel out with the boys so I ended up coming out the next day. I got the medical done and me and Dylan got a flight out there together. It ended up being a long day but it was really good to get out there and meet the rest of the boys. I knew Donald Love, and that was it really, although I’ve played against a few of the lads before in different games, but I didn’t know them on a personal level. But it’s been really good. All the lads and staff have made me really welcome. It was good to meet everyone in Portugal, and it’s been really good to get back to Sunderland and see all the facilities at the training ground and get going back here.”

The defender suffered an ankle injury at Wigan that kept him sidelined for almost two years but the 24 year old is confident he’s now fighting fit ahead of our challange on League One: “I had a bad injury at Wigan which kept me out for 20 months and that was quite difficult. My first operation failed, I came back from the next operation and that failed. It just kind of went from there and became a big problem until I eventually got it sorted. I got as many games in there between injuries as I could and I felt I played well. But my time had come at Wigan and as soon as I got the phonecall from Sunderland I was delighted to come and sign here. I’ve not had an in issue with my ankle for 12 months and I took a tackle on it at Darlington. It was quite a hefty one and it stood up well so I know there are no issues there at all. It’s just about building momentum for me because the more games I play consecutively, everything starts to come back. As soon as you build momentum everything goes from there and hopefully I can get going and play really well.”

In other news, Bali Mumba looks set to make his mark at SAFC this season, according to his manager, Jack Ross. “At 16 years old, he’s really forcing himself further and further into my thoughts.” Said Ross: “We have to be careful because he’s still a boy, but he’s a really good player and I thought he handled himself and acquitted himself really well. I was aware of his reputation and abilities before I came in, but you don’t really get feel for the players until you start working with them day in, day out. That’s a process that is still ongoing at the moment, but he’s really impressed me in training and when he played in Portugal, albeit in a training game, again he was really good. There was a physicality to the game (v Darlo) which was challenging, but I thought he coped with it really well and I thought he got better throughout his time on the pitch. It’s really encouraging for us because at 16, and in normal circumstances, we probably shouldn’t be considering him to be in and around the first-team squad, but he’s there on merit at the moment. If he continues to develop as he is, the likelihood is that he’ll be around the squad and that’s great for him. It’s a great opportunity for him and it’s good for me because he’s producing positive performances.”

Meanwhile it looks as though SAFC set to add another name to our under 23 ranks as we're close to signing teenager Liam Millar from Liverpool. The striker will join Jack Bainbridge, who signed yesterday, as we look to build for a very bright future at the academy. Millar won’t be short on confidence after bagging 19 goals last season for the Reds under 18s and under 19s. It’s thought he’ll come in to replace Sam Greenwood who left for Arsenal this week. Liam made his full international debut for Canada this year in a 1-0 win over New Zealand and his manager (Consett born John Herdman) was full of praise for the lad: “He was fearless,” said Herdman. “He’s got that X-factor. He doesn’t know any other way than to try and terrorize full-backs. It’s exciting.”