Sunderland coach discusses Chris Rigg's remarkable week - and the next steps

Sunderland's U21 boss Graeme Murty says the club will continue to ensure Chris Rigg is tested in the best possible environments after his first-team debut at Shrewsbury Town.

Having been introduced as an 82nd-minute substitute in the 2-1 FA Cup win, Rigg went straight into the starting XI as Murty's side lost a remarkable game against Middlesbrough 7-5.

The 15-year-old is still at school but Head Coach Tony Mowbray expects him to train with the first team moving forward when on day release.

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That will likely be supplemented with U21 minutes - with Murty underlining the importance of testing the 'all-action' midfielder whenever possible.

Chris Rigg1-2 Sunderland AFC FA Cup 3rd Rnd. Picture by Ian Horrocks

"He's been training with the first team in the last week building-up to the FA Cup game," Murty explained after the Middlesbrough defeat.

"He's been in with us, he's been in with our squad. As it sits for the moment he's in our squad training with us.

"But his is an individual case, and as with all the players we're here to serve the first team. If they want to take him, we accommodate around that.

"He's an exciting young man. It was a hard game today which won't be hurtful in the long run. We need to give him more exposure to better players and faster football which will aid his development because there's no doubt he's a talent.

"Chris is all-action. Even there, as a 15-year-old, you saw him trying to take a bit of responsibility and organise people around the game."

Sunderland are developing a bespoke development plan for Rigg, who they hope to convince to stay at the club despite significant transfer interest from the Premier League.

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"It's more about increasing his understanding of himself, his game and the game as a whole," Murty explained.

"We don't want him just to understand how we would like him to influence the game, but he's an international now so it's understanding how international teams play.

"It's understanding how to impact the game both with and without the ball, so then making sure we keep a real keen eye on his development and make sure there are no areas missed. There are times, for example, when he scans better away from the ball. As you move up a level that becomes imperative because you get less time on the ball so you need to know your options earlier.

"We sit down, go through a debrief for him and work from a bespoke programme to make sure hopefully all his development needs are met."

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Though competition for places will grow if Mowbray lands another midfielder in the January window as expected, the head coach has made clear Rigg is on his radar moving forward.

"He was on the pitch because he deserved to be on the pitch," Mowbray said.

"Of course we had a lot of injuries and that played a part, but the chance comes and everyone needs that opportunity. He's done well and hopefully pushed himself on the fringes of helping us in league matches going forward."