TONY MOWBRAY admits he sometimes has to remind himself just how young Chris Rigg is as he steps up the teenager’s integration into Sunderland’s first-team squad.

Having become Sunderland’s youngest-ever outfield player last season, Rigg was breaking records again on Tuesday night when, at the age of 16 years and 51 days, he found the net against Crewe Alexandra to become the club’s youngest senior goalscorer.

Last season, the youngster’s ability to train with Sunderland’s first-team group was restricted because of his age and the fact that he was still studying for his GCSE exams.

This term, with Rigg having signed a new contract in the summer to commit him to the Stadium of Light despite competing interest from Newcastle United and Manchester United, he is able to be a full-time member of Mowbray’s senior group.

He made his first senior start on Tuesday, and while his second-half goal was insufficient to see Sunderland progress to the League Cup second round, with Crewe triumphing 5-3 on penalties, the evening nevertheless represented another notable staging post in his fledgling career.

Mowbray intends to give him much more game time over the course of the next nine months, although every now and then, he has to pause and remind himself that he is dealing with a player who only turned 16 in June.

“I think Chris Rigg belies his age a little bit,” said Mowbray. “I can be quite harsh on him sometimes, then I have to check myself to think, ‘Hang on a minute, he’s a 16-year-old boy’.


“I expect more from him sometimes. I thought he was really poor in the (pre-season) game at Hartlepool, almost shockingly, to the point where he looked like a boy. But he reacted to that.

“He played with discipline (against Crewe). When I asked him to play deeper in the first half, he played deeper, then when I said at half-time that because we had so much dominance, he could leave that six position and start breaking into the box, he breaks into the box and goes and scores.

“It shows me that he takes on information, and he wants to please and do well. He’s a good footballer and he’s got a wonderful future in front of him, I’m sure.”