Lee Johnson will be delighted by the start Ross Stewart has made to the 2021/22 season.
The pressure was on for Sunderland to replace last season’s top scorer Charlie Wyke, who went to Wigan Athletic, and yet so far it looks like the ready made replacement was already within their ranks. The 25-year-old has plundered seven goals in the opening nine and will be setting his sights on 20 for the campaign.
If the supply line from the likes of Elliot Embleton and Aiden McGeady continues to be as generous then Stewart has a great chance of realising that ambition. It turns out Johnson has even loftier expectations of his star frontman which he revealed when he spoke to ChronicleLive.
He said: “For me, he is a top ten Championship player, at least – with the potential to play in the Premier League as well.
“The thing about Rosco (Ross Stewart) is that he is just such a great lad, he is like a sponge and you kow that anything you say to him, he is going to take it in.
“Some stuff he will get rid of because he has a strong mind of his own, but the bits that he feels will improve him, he really works hard on.”
The Black Cats have the chance to extend their lead at the summit of League One when they travel to Portsmouth on Saturday.
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Not many people saw this coming as it felt like Stewart was a relative unknown at the start of the 2021/22 season.
The Scotsman is not a striker who is going to create chances for himself and score many goals from outside the penalty area. But so far this term he has been a master of arriving at the right time and his intelligent movement will continue to ask serious questions of League One backlines.
Johnson’s comments are very high praise, the former Bristol City boss never spoke so well about Wyke last season and the real test will come in sustaining this form and ensuring the Black Cats continue to ride this new wave of optimism.