Matty Hayward – @Mattyhayward96
It’s about time, isn’t it? As Lee Johnson entered his fifth month of managing Sunderland, you’d have been forgiven for assuming that he’d fallen out with his old man such was the paucity (in fact, complete lack) of father-to-son loan deals that had been struck. Such fears were allayed on Saturday. The Johnson clan have come up trumps again. Lee’s worked out what Gary needs; he’s assessed his squad; he’s overcome the numerous Covid-induced logistical issues and has lent us one of his most promising starlets.
Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka is a Torquay player until the end of the season, but who on earth is he?
Another brief one, I’m afraid. Mbunga-Kimpioka was born in the Swedish town of Knivsta, not far north of Stockholm. Benji joined IK Sirius as a youngster in the nearby city of Uppsala, but moved to Sunderland aged 16. It’s not entirely clear how a teenager from Sweden ends up at a club in the north east of England, but previously Sunderland have signed players in similar positions – such as Joel Asoro – so they presumably have something of a “presence” in Scandanavian talent pathways.
Regardless of how he wound up there, the forward has found first-team appearances hard to come by and most of his games have come in the Premier League’s U23 competition. He played eight times in the league, scoring once (a late equaliser against Coventry) and six times in the “Papa John’s Trophy”, scoring twice (against Carlisle then Newcastle U23s) before requiring hamstring surgery in November 2020.
Mbunga-Kimpioka has also represented his country at youth level. He played seven times for the Swedish U21s in 2019, scoring against Scotland and Norway, and ten times for the U19s, notching thrice. It has clearly not gone unnoticed to Benji that someone who gets picked at age-group international level should be able to get picked in League One. Reportedly, he was offered a contract by former Black Cats boss Phil Parkinson to replace the deal that runs out this summer, but turned it down with supposed interest circling around Europe. I think if we were agents, we’d all claim our client was wanted throughout Europe if we thought it’d get him a better deal at his current club. Nonetheless, the Swede will certainly see this loan opportunity as a chance to both regain fitness and put himself in the shop window for potential suitors. And, fingers crossed, add a promotion to his scarce CV.
As you can imagine for someone whose had fewer first-team appearances than birthdays, the internet isn’t exactly flooded with highlights reals. But they do exist, small though they are in number. Here are some.
We start on the international stage. Marbella, to be precise. The windiest day Marbella has ever seen, to be more precise. Watch the whole thing if you want to see some tidy hold-up play from our Swedish Prince, or just watch from 1:35 if it’s just his (scrappy but determined) goal you’re after.
Next, we return to more familiar surroundings: Hartlepool in July 2018. The ‘keeper should do better, but the skilful long-range goal (1:09) from a slimmer-looking Benji is impressive all the same, and grabs his side a draw.
Finally, we move to Benji’s only league goal to date. A really tidy finish in front of an expectant Stadium of Light crowd earns his side a point against Coventry. Watch from 1:28 for the full melee.
Playing Style and Where He’ll Fit
As his 30-minute cameo (or is that too long for a cameo? When does a cameo become a stint?) at Dagenham showed, it’s pretty clear what Mbunga-Kimpioka offers. He’s a strong, quick (something we’ve sorely lacked this season), and skilful player. There’s certainly some rawness there: he appeared desperate to get on the ball at every opportunity but sometimes hesitant to pull the trigger. That said, he looks some player, and though we’ve only seen flashes it seems he has a few tricks in his locker. I’m getting a bit fed up of writing these profiles in an excited tone and being disappointed to varying degrees, but this lad really does look the real deal and will be hoping to live up to his “wonderkid” billing.
BMK is referred to as a “winger/forward” and may fill in for the injured Aaron Nemane on the right, but it’s fairly obvious that his better position is as an out-and-out striker. There’s no good reason why he wouldn’t start at Woking on Friday, be that in a front-two with Scott Boden; or replacing everyone’s favourite balding forward in the XI altogether; or in a wider berth. Wherever he plays, we give eternal thanks to Lee Johnson for this early Fathers’ Day gift. We’ll go easy on Sunderland in the League Cup next season, Lee. Promise.
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