Lee Johnson hails 'dynamic' Sunderland youngster who has made a fine first impression

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Lee Johnson has told Jack Diamond he has ‘mega-bucks’ of work to do on his game, but the 20-year-old has made a major impression on his new Head Coach.

Diamond produced an excellent attacking display as Sunderland battled back from conceding an early goal at Boundary Park, winning 2-1 to book their place in the last 16 of the Papa John’s Trophy.

Diamond was influential in the equaliser, his cross sliced towards Chris Maguire at the back post.

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His direct running and ability to get beyond the Oldham Athletic left-back was a valuable outlet for his team throughout the contest, and Johnson was left impressed with his dynamism.

Jack Diamond made a big impression on Lee Johnson at Boundary ParkJack Diamond made a big impression on Lee Johnson at Boundary Park
Jack Diamond made a big impression on Lee Johnson at Boundary Park

“I thought he was fantastic,” Johnson said.

"He’s got mega-bucks of work to do, and he’s got to sleep with a futsal ball under his pillow because he needs to learn how to master the ball, but wow, he’s so powerful, direct and dynamic, and we need that in our team.

"We need that to create space for the footballers that can get in the pockets. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and Jack certainly made a very good one on me today.”

Johnson had spoken after the insipid 1-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic on Saturday about the need for more pace in his side, a forward player capable of stretching the opposition defence.

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He conceded that even if the player in question was raw in some areas of his game, it could help to bring out the best of the team’s creative players.

Diamond’s performance, then, was timely.

"I’m really looking forward to working with him,” Johnson said.

“I was talking to him before the game about watching various clips – Chris Waddle used to drag it and his head was so far over the ball it was almost impossible to tackle him.

“At the moment Jack runs direct, almost at the middle of the legs of the defender, when what we want him to do is drag it a little bit, push it on his inside foot and race him down the outside.

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“I thought his overall game was good. Yes, sometimes his touch was a little bit hot potato, but actually when he had to protect the ball he did that really well.

“He needs to sleep with a futsal ball under his pillow and master those touches, but there’s a real good framework there to improve.

“He has a very good attitude as well.”

Johnson was pleased with the early progress of his side, and said it was a platform to build on.

"It’s definitely good to get a win – for the lads more than anything,” he said

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“I’m comfortable in my own skin to deal with the pressure but there’s nothing like winning football matches, and you could see in the dressing room that the buzz is back.

“What we have to do is see a bit of character in action.

“When we are at home in front of 25,000 – or 42,000 when we are absolutely flying – the boys have to be able to handle all circumstances and be brave, and it’s my job to encourage them to be creative, bring the best out of some talented players, and not stifle them.”

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