The last few seasons have not been too kind to Benjamin Kimpioka, and it speaks volumes to the character of the 21-year-old that he has been able to force his way into Lee Johnson’s first team plans in recent weeks.
The striker made his second substitute league appearance of the season on Thursday evening, coincidentally both of the times he has been brought on this term the Black Cats have gone on to win the game 5-0.
Just four minutes after his introduction, Kimpioka confidently nutmegged Bailey Peacock-Farrell having latched onto a delicious low cross from Leon Dajaku.
Johnson explained how Kimpioka has got up to speed and his role within it when he spoke to the Sunderland Echo.
He said: “You always want the best for the players, and sometimes when I talk to you I’m also talking to the players. It’s nothing I wouldn’t say to him. At the same time, sometimes a young player needs a little cuddle and sometimes they need a little kick up the backside to get them going.
“It’s lovely to see any younger play influencing at first-team level. He’s very different and that unpredictability of his is a quality, for sure.”
Kimpioka will be hoping to prove in the coming weeks that he is worthy of staying in the first team picture rather than heading back out on loan, or the Black Cats recruiting another forward to add further competition for places.
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The Swede made his first enroads on the first team shake-up in 2018/19 and 2019/29, opening his account for the club in a 1-1 draw with eventual league winners Coventry City in the curtailed 2019/20 campaign.
Yet his upward trajectory decelerated a touch in a difficult 2020/21 season where he failed to find the net in ten National League appearances for Torquay United.
A brief stint with Southend United followed at the beginning of 2021/22 and was goalless again, but having found his feet in the U23 side lately, Kimpioka looks ready to be involved more regularly than ever in the coming months.
Johnson has shown a lot of faith in younger players this season and Kimpioka could be the next one to profit from that courageous trust.