Sunderland manager Lee Johnson has admitted that he believes forward Benjamin Kimpioka now needs to grow up in terms of his maturity as a player after recently returning to the Stadium of Light following a loan spell at Southend United.
The 28-year-old moved to the Shrimpers on a temporary basis in September and went on to feature on two occasions for the club in the National League.
Since returning to Wearside last week, Kimpioka has been training with the club’s Under-23 side and could be in contention to feature for Sunderland’s youth outfit in their clash with Reading this evening.
Yet to make an appearance at senior level this season for the Black Cats, the 21-year-old is currently behind Nathan Broadhead and Ross Stewart in the pecking order and thus will be determined to prove his worth to Johnson in the coming weeks.
Making reference to Kimpioka, Johnson has admitted that the forward is not currently in contention for a place in Sunderland’s senior squad.
Speaking to the Sunderland Echo about Kimpioka, the Black Cats boss said: “I think he’s got a bit to do [to be included in the senior squad], if I’m honest.
“We’ll do everything we can to support him but I think he’s stepping into a period in his career and his life now where he’s got to grow up in terms of that maturity on and off the pitch.
“He’s a great lad, a really, really good kid.
“Everyone is so enthused about him as a person and so wants him to do well.
“But there has to be a stage in his life where he kicks in to being an elite professional.
“If he does that, he has got some really great opportunities.
“Something has got to change that pattern at the moment, to be able to really fulfill his potential.”
When you consider that Kimpioka has only made 14 appearances for Sunderland during his career to date, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the forward is allowed to leave the club on a temporary basis once again in the coming weeks.
Whilst the forward will be keen to force his way into the Black Cats’ senior side, he may not be ready to feature at this level as he has only scored once in the third-tier.
Providing that Stewart is able to maintain his form as well his fitness, the forward is likely to lead the line for Sunderland in League One for the foreseeable future as he has already managed to find the back of the net on 10 occasions at this level this season.
Kimpioka could potentially make considerable strides in terms of his development by featuring regularly at senior level for a side in a lower division in the second-half of the 2021/22 campaign if Sunderland do indeed sanction another loan move.