Sunderland’s academy set-up has hardly been a hotbed for world-class talent in the modern era as the club have struggled to produce a consistent line of impressive graduates.
Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford, both England internationals, came through the Academy of Light but they are the only two players who are valued at more than £6.3m by Transfermarkt at the time of writing.
The Black Cats have been unable to unearth gems on a regular basis and this could boil down to the recruitment at youth level, the coaching set-up, or the opportunities that young players have or have not been given over the years.
However, one talented academy graduate the club had a howler with not too long ago was young full-back Bali Mumba. The right-back, who can also play in central midfield, made ten first-team appearances for Sunderland as a teenager after the South Shields-born full-back broke into the first-team during the 2017/18 campaign.
He was then sold to Norwich City, who had just been relegated from the Premier League, in the summer of 2020 for a reported fee of £350k, which journalist Josh Bunting recently described as mere “peanuts“.
The right-back made his Premier League debut for the Canaries in the 2021/22 campaign before heading out on loan to Peterborough, where he racked up 13 appearances and chipped in with one goal and one assist.
Norwich then elected to send him out on another temporary deal for 2022/23 as Plymouth Argyle snapped him up for their League One season.
Since joining the third-tier side, Mumba has been in phenomenal form and is showing that he has the quality to make the step up to playing at a higher level.
He has started ten league matches this season and averaged a sublime SofaScore rating of 7.19, making 3.3 tackles and interceptions per game and winning 59% of his duels whilst playing as a left wing-back. For context, Ross Stewart (7.25) was the only Sunderland player with a higher average rating than 7.19 in League One last term, which illustrates how well he is performing at the moment.
Mumba is also showing that he can be a difference-maker at the top end of the pitch. He has scored two goals and provided five assists in his ten appearances so far, scoring his latest goal in a 2-1 win over Ipswich last weekend.
TalkNorwichCity’s Jack Reeve claimed that he looks like “the real deal” and his statistics, especially considering he is 20, back that up this season with his sublime performances in League One.
Thus, Sunderland evidently made a mistake by selling him for such a low figure and they may well live to regret that decision if he continues to kick on and prove his worth at a higher level, given his age and what he has already achieved in his short career to date.