Jack Ross on the exciting, enigmatic youngster about to make his full Sunderland debut
A player who excites Jack Ross, but one who, every now and then at least, leaves him scratching his head.
Benji Kimpioka made an impression on his league debut against Peterborough United, after which Ross described him as a ‘bit of an enigma at times’.
Coming off the bench with his team a man down, Kimpioka came within inches of turning an Aiden McGeady shot towards goal. Then in the closing moments he made an exhilarating burst for goal.
It came to nothing, but showcased his raw pace and talent.
There was even some crowd interaction from the Swede, a sure sign that he relishes being on the pitch and in the thick of the action.
Before the game, though, a throwaway comment left Ross and his staff a touch baffled and more than a touch amused.
Ross tells the tale to show that the 18-year-old is a unique character, but one who has a very good chance of making an impression in the game.
The Black Cats boss also admits that he is starting to understand the Swede’s game better and better, something which both should benefit from.
Before heading off for international duty, Kimpioka will have a big chance to make an impression as he makes his full debut in the Checkatrade Trophy clash against Carlisle.
“The one thing I always say is that it can be so hard to have regular contact time with the younger players.
“Where we train and everything, it’s not perfect in that sense.
“But I watch the games and get to any that I can get to.
“When he came into my squad in pre-season he played out wide and when I’ve watched him recently, I think he’s actually better suited to a more central role.
“He’s so off the cuff in the way that he plays, but even when I watch him in the U23’s, he has two or three minutes where he does brilliant things and then two or three where you just don’t see him.
“But he’s young!
“When he arrived at the ground before the Peterborough game, Pottsy [John Potter] said, ‘hi, how are you?’ And his response was ‘good morning’.
“I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as English isn’t his first language!
“But that’s just him. He’s pretty laidback but he’s got something, and you saw it against Peterborough,” Ross added.
“Even his interaction with the crowd, it’s interesting to see that. I like him, he’s got really good attributes.
“He’s still very young but to get some first team involvement is good for him."
Kimpioka is joined in the Sunderland XI for the visit of Carlisle by youngster Ethan Robson.
Ross has made six changes for the game with fourteen players unavailable.