Why Chris Rigg will miss Sunderland’s U21s play-off semi-final amid Man Utd and Newcastle transfer interest

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Sunderland U21s will face Reading U21s in the semi-finals of Premier League 2 at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.

Chris Rigg is set to miss Sunderland’s under-21s match against Reading in the semi-finals of Premier League 2 after being called up for England’s under-17s squad.

Rigg played 70 minutes as the young Black Cats beat West Ham on penalties to set up the last four fixtures against Reading. The 16-year-old returned to Sunderland’s starting XI against the Hammers after missing a 4-1 win over Wolves in the last 16.

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He will now join up with England’s under-17s squad for the European Under-17 Championship finals in Cyprus, but will be suspended for the Young Lions’ opening group match against France on Tuesday, May 21. Greg Lincoln’s side will then face Portugal and Spain in Group D, with the top two teams qualifying for the quarter-finals.

When asked about Rigg’s involvement and substitution against West Ham, Sunderland’s under-21s assistant coach John Hewitson told the Echo: “We just wanted to get him some game time, selfishly it improves the team because he’s a first-team player really. It improves us and gives him some vital match minutes before he goes away with England. He goes away with England and was red carded in his last cap so he’s suspended for their first game. He just came off because he was absolutely shattered.”

Still only 16, Rigg made 21 Championship appearances for Sunderland’s first team this season, starting eight of the side’s last 11 matches. His progress has led to interest from multiple Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Newcastle, with Sunderland hoping the chance to play senior football will convince him to stay.

Rigg signed a two-year scholarship deal with the Black Cats last summer, yet FA rules mean the midfielder can’t sign a professional contract until after his 17th birthday on June 18.

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Asked about Rigg’s progress this season, Hewitson replied: “I think for Chris he’s had a really accelerated trajectory over the last couple of seasons. The academy have seen him always play up and be challenged. He's Just got that mentality of he doesn’t get fazed by things. We’re just hoping that he keeps progressing in the first team and having a real impact. We want to make sure he’s a star for us.”

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