During pre-season, Jack Diamond looked in fabulous form, albeit in a new position.
The Sunderland youngster was afforded an opportunity at left wing-back and looked convincing, quickly sparking claims that the Black Cats had solved a problem area.
Of course, Denver Hume has been capable in that third this season but supporters were right to be worried. Moves for both Declan John and Laurens De Bock failed to work out last season.
Yet, Phil Parkinson neglected Diamond and handed the young attacker very few opportunities.
He did score in the Papa John’s trophy but it has taken a change of management for the 20-year-old from Gateshead to finally thrive at the Stadium of Light.
Since Lee Johnson walked through the door he has been exceptional, proving a livewire in attack and offering Sunderland something they didn’t previously have – pace and direct running.
“We have to be careful with Jack and make sure he doesn’t get ahead of himself, but what he gives us an attribute that we haven’t otherwise got and that is the ability to stretch the play,” Johnson said at the weekend.
Indeed, he frightened the life out of the Lincoln defence and scored in the process. Diamond completed two dribbles and was also fouled on two occasions, building on a display where he played two key passes and managed four dribbles against Oldham.
In his last two matches, the prodigy has been a breath of fresh air to a Sunderland side who needed reinvigorating in attack.
Johnson commented last week: “He’s got mega-bucks of work to do, and he’s got to sleep with a futsal ball under his pillow because he needs to learn how to master the ball, but wow, he’s so powerful, direct and dynamic, and we need that in our team.”
Leaving the head coach wowed after just a week in charge is quite special and it speaks volumes about the player they have on their hands. Sunderland have seen a number of academy players break through in recent years and in terms of his direct nature and confidence, Diamond has similarities to a certain Josh Maja.
Another forward who scared defenders and scored goals, he eventually left, but the academy product very quickly became the centre of everything good the Black Cats did.
It looks as though Sunderland may well have another case here. After all, he’s starting ahead of last season’s top scorer Chris Maguire, someone who has only scored three times this season.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Diamond surpassed that over the festive period.