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Sunderland can unearth a Ross Stewart heir in Max Thompson

Ross Stewart made it three goals in three games since his return from injury against Wigan Athletic on Thursday night but Sunderland fans may be concerned that his strong form will only increase the interest being shown in him ahead of next month’s transfer window.

The Scottish striker was instrumental in the Black Cats’ return to the second tier last season as he hit 26 goals en route to promotion from League One, and he would start the new season in similarly impressive form.

In just seven appearances in the Championship, the former Ross County man would contribute a superb five goals and three assists, while he has added another three to his tally in recent appearances against Hull City, Blackburn Rovers and Wigan.

It was a huge blow for Tony Mowbray to lose the striker through injury in recent months but it seems as if he is getting back to his best just in time for the January window, with a number of Premier League and Scottish Premiership clubs understandably keen on recruiting the 26-year-old forward.

Sky Sports reporter Keith Downie wrote on Twitter:

“Middlesbrough are showing the strongest interest from a clutch of clubs wanting to sign Sunderland striker Ross Stewart. Stewart could leave in January with Blackburn & Stoke among a number of Champ clubs – plus Rangers – keen. PL duo Crystal Palace & Brentford also monitoring.”

Therefore, with Stewart’s contract at the Stadium of Light set to expire at the end of this season, albeit with an option for a one-year extension, it may not be long until the Black Cats are searching for a replacement for the talismanic striker.

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First up in this quiz about Sunderland's 2022, the Black Cats kicked off the year with a memorable 3-3 draw against which team?

Fortunately for Mowbray, he could already have an ideal candidate in 20-year-old academy talent, Max Thompson.

The young striker arrived from Burnley in the summer, having featured in the Premier League for the Clarets under former manager Sean Dyche, but he is yet to make a senior appearance for the Black Cats.

Upon his arrival at the Stadium of Light, Thompson said:

“It feels a long time coming to sign here, as I came close back in January. I would describe myself as a goalscorer and a direct player. I’m eager to learn from all the coaching staff and make serious progress here.”

The young forward enjoyed a strong spell in Burnley’s academy, hitting 17 goals in 41 appearances for the U21’s and he has continued that prolific form with his new side, boasting five goals and one assist in seven Premier League 2 appearances.

Thompson certainly seems to know where the back of the net is, and if Sunderland do lose Stewart in 2023, Mowbray could do a lot worse than handing the 20-year-old an opportunity as his replacement.