SEB LARSSON was always confident Joel Asoro would make a breakthrough with Sunderland – and the Swedish veteran is delighted to see his young compatriot hitting the headlines in his homeland as a result.

Having impressed during the Black Cats’ pre-season programme, Asoro made his Premier League debut as a substitute in August’s home defeat to Middlesbrough.

The 17-year-old has started both of Sunderland’s League Cup games this season, and while the majority of his youth-team colleagues were involved in Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Hartlepool, it was telling that Asoro was nowhere to be seen at Victoria Park.

David Moyes clearly regards the striker as a member of his senior squad, and with competition to Jermain Defoe currently thin on the ground, the teenager is likely to get more first-team chances in the next few months.

Larsson has been aware of his fellow Swede’s progression through Sunderland’s youth ranks in the last year or so, with Asoro having joined the set-up at the Academy of Light in 2015. He was particularly impressed with the youngster’s efforts during this summer’s pre-season camp in France, and has been delighted with his seamless transition to the senior ranks.

“I knew about him before he broke through with us,” said Larsson, who is currently sidelined after undergoing knee surgery in the summer. “But the first time I really saw him was when he broke through in France (during pre-season).

“He made a real impression, not just on the manager, because we saw a boy who was prepared to work really hard and he has the talent too. It has been a great start to the season for him - now he has to keep working hard.”

Sunderland’s record of developing players from their youth ranks over the last few seasons has been poor, with Jordan Henderson the last academy product to make a significant impression on the top-flight.

That looks set to change this season, with 22-year-old Jordan Pickford making quite a name for himself after coming in for the injured Vito Mannone.

Asoro’s development is at a more formative stage than that of Pickford, but while his Premier League involvement might have been restricted to a nine-minute substitute display, the Swedish media have been quick to pick up on his emergence onto the first-team stage.

“When you read the papers in Sweden, when somebody so young makes his debut, it becomes big news,” said Larsson. “He has done well for the Under-21s, but he has to keep working because there will be ups and downs along the way.

“There is a buzz in Sweden about him though. After he started in France, people quickly heard he was involved over there. He was doing well, he scored and people got interested.

“The Premier League is the most watched league in the world, everyone watches it. So when a young Swedish guy makes his debut at 17, then of course it is big news over there.”

Asoro is one of nine Sunderland players on international duty this week, with Sweden Under-21s taking on Estonia and Croatia.

Duncan Watmore and Jason Denayer are also involved at Under-21 level, with Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri, Lynden Gooch, Paddy McNair, Didier Ndong and John O’Shea having been selected for their respective senior squads.