Sunderland look set to confirm the signing of Jobe Bellingham from Birmingham City this summer, with Kristjaan Speakman continuing the Black Cats’ recent philosophy of signing top young talents.
Tony Mowbray achieved a playoff spot with the youngest squad in the division this season which suggests the future is bright at the Stadium of Light and while the 59-year-old’s future at the club is currently unclear, he will be hoping to continue their upwards trajectory again in the 2023/24 campaign.
Despite the signing of Bellingham, who will naturally attract big interest due to the success of his older brother with Borussia Dortmund and England, Sunderland’s best ‘wonderkid’ may already be at the club.
Chris Rigg enjoyed a breakthrough campaign at the age of just 15 and looks to have a huge future with the club, and he may be the man, or boy, that Mowbray should call upon next season as he looks to secure another positive finish.
Who is Chris Rigg?
The teenager is a product of the youth academy at Sunderland and has already established himself as a regular in Premier League 2, where he will have been playing against professionals more than five years his senior.
He has also regularly trained with the first team under Mowbray and was rewarded with a debut in the FA Cup this season, with VAR unfortunately ruling out what would have been a memorable first senior goal for the 15-year-old away at Fulham.
Rigg boasts two goals and four assists in just 15 appearances for the U18s and has three first-team appearances under his belt, so he will definitely be looking to push on again next season, provided he can bulk up physically during the summer.
Mowbray was full of praise for the youngster ahead of his debut against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup and suggested that he had been very impressed with his performances in training.
He said: “He’s not a big, strong, physical, guy – he’s quite slight – but he has a wonderful left foot and he is an incredibly competitive animal. I’ve seen him for 20-30 minutes in an U21 game against Southampton, and his potential looks enormous to me.
“He looks like a footballer who can play with the silkiness with his left foot, and play lovely passes, but he also looks like a tiger in that he wants to tackle everyone, and that’s not a bad mix for a midfielder. For a boy of 15, I don’t want to overly build him up other than to say he looked in training today like he warrants being around our squad.”
While Bellingham looks to be a top prospect with 22 Championship appearances to his name this season, his arrival will hopefully not limit the opportunities of Rigg, as he could be a truly special player at Sunderland.