Sunderland striker Benji Kimpioka opens up on January interest and Netflix dispute after Celtic clash

Sunderland striker Benji Kimpioka has impressed in the Checkatrade Trophy this season.
Sunderland striker Benji Kimpioka has impressed in the Checkatrade Trophy this season.

Sunderland striker Benji Kimpioka was keen to go out on loan earlier this season but was persuaded to stay by manager Jack Ross.

The Swedish striker, 18, has predominantly played for the Black Cats' under-23 side the campaign but has also impressed for the first-team in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Kimpioka scored against Carlisle United and Newcastle Under-21s earlier in the competition and is hopeful he can kick-on at the Stadium of Light.

The striker's performances have understandably led to interest from elsewhere, with Kimpioka revealing several clubs, including one in League One, were keen to sign him on loan

Yet Kimpioka believed it was better for his development to stay on Wearside, after a reassuring word with his manager.

"I had a talk with the Academy Manager a few months ago and there were some clubs that wanted me on loan," the striker told Swedish website fotbollskanalen .

"At first I thought “yes” immediately, but then I felt that I have developed here. I had a discussion with my agent and the next day Jack (Ross) said he didn’t want me on loan. It motivated me and now I am fighting even harder here."

Ross has taken a significant interest in the under-23 side since his arrival on Wearside last summer, attending many of the fixtures this term.

That has inspired Kimpioka, who now sees a direct pathway into the first team.

"When he (Ross) came in as a new coach, I immediately felt that he is a very nice guy and a good coach," Kimpioka added. "He is especially good with us young players and the under-23 players.

"This meant that you wanted to show off, while it went well in the under-23s, which meant that he took me up directly to the first team. I feel that I have developed a lot here and will continue to work hard, so if we see where it takes me.

"There was a team that was in the league below, League One and some ‘Conference team’, but it did not end. I don’t remember exactly what teams it was."

Kimpioka has relished his opportunities in the first team this season and the chance to play in front of big crowds at the Stadium of Light.

"It has been very fun and I am very grateful to play for such good fans, around 30,000 in every home game," said the striker.

"It has always been a dream to get playing time in such matches. I feel like I can, so I’m very grateful that the first team coach and the assistant coach give me the chance and believe in me.

"I will only continue to perform in training with the first team and with the under-23 team. I will always be the best at training, matches and work hard to show that I am the best in all moments.

"I'm proud of myself. It hasn’t been easy for me since I came here. There has been a lot of extra training myself and I usually practice when I am free."

Kimpioka also opened up on the recent Netflix documentary, which he claims caused friction between senior players and the producers.

"They are in the building and filming training and now matches of the coming season (of the series), so it will be a little more positive now that we will try to get back to the Championship and Premier League," said Kimpioka

"It eventually turns out that you do not think about it so much. They stand outside the doors before training, while there are cameras on the wall. Sometimes you go by, do something fun and hope to come along. It does nothing for me."

The striker says some players were particularly unhappy at the coverage following Sunderland's 5-0 defeat to Celtic in pre-season.

Supporters from both clubs clashed after the game at the Stadium of Light, yet Kimpioka believes the documentary made things look worse.

"Some first team players were not so happy and there was a slight confrontation between some of the players and the producers," said the striker.

"We lost in a friendly against Celtic with 5-0 and the fans were not so happy about it. It was just a training match, but many went home quite early and then they took a clip from another match, where the fans fought, so it looked like they were fighting for the Celtic match, but it wasn’t.

"They were not happy about it, but the producers edited it together in that case. Everyone has high demands on each other, that is how it should be in a professional club."