LEE JOHNSON sees Jack Diamond’s new long-term contract with Sunderland as “just the start” of his journey with the club.

Diamond, who turned 21 at the start of the year, penned a new three-year deal yesterday that commits him to the Stadium of Light until the summer of 2024.

For Sunderland, tying down a player who has been with the academy since the age of 14 underlines the determination of new owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus not to follow the example of the previous regime, who were regularly accused of ‘squandering the family silver’ by allowing talented young players to leave.

For Gateshead-born Diamond, the new deal confirms the extent of his progress since he returned to Wearside last summer following a season-long loan in the National League with Harrogate Town.

“I’m delighted for Jack that he has signed a new contract,” said Johnson. “This is just the start for him – he has fantastic potential and some great attributes, and his performances are getting stronger and stronger as the days go by. We are very excited about Jack’s future with Sunderland.”

Diamond made his senior Sunderland debut in the EFL Trophy in 2018, but his fortunes have been transformed this season, first under Phil Parkinson, then under Johnson. Parkinson played in him in the Papa John’s Trophy at the start of the season, but was reluctant to trust him in the league. Johnson has shown no such reservations, with Diamond having been a regular presence in the first team in the second half of the season.

He scored his first league goal in December’s 4-0 win at Lincoln – a game that seemed to convince Johnson of his readiness for League One – and has impressed in a wide-midfield position.

“I’ve been here since I was 14, so to be offered the chance to play for Sunderland – when they are on the up – is a fantastic opportunity for me,” said Diamond. “I’ve broken into the first team this season under the new head coach and I’m pleased to be rewarded with a new contract."