DAN NEIL has been blown away by "freak of nature" Jobe Bellingham and despite the midfielder's age and lack of experience, he's not at all surprised to see the summer signing coping fine with the pressure and expectation that comes with playing for Sunderland.

Bellingham had only made five league starts for Birmingham before joining the Black Cats in the summer but has quickly and impressively slotted into Tony Mowbray's side, starting all three Championship games so far and scoring a fine matchwinning brace against Rotherham United on Saturday.

Mowbray used Bellingham as a makeshift striker against the Millers and the head coach has praised the versatility of the midfielder, who he believes is comfortable playing as a winger, a No.10, a box to box midfielder or in a deeper role protecting the backline.

Neil played against Bellingham when the youngster was at Birmingham last season so had an idea of the midfielder's qualities - but it was only when the the 17-year-old signed that he got to truly appreciate the physical strength and technical quality of the younger brother of England and Real Madrid star Jude.

"He makes me look like a 17-year-old," laughed Neil, who himself is only 21 but has admitted he feels like something of an elder statesman in Sunderland's young dressing room.

"He's an absolute freak of nature, physically. I have never seen a 17-year-old that size. Technically, he is a top, top, player as well."

Having the physical quality is one thing, but at Sunderland players also need to deal with the challenge of playing in front of more than 40,000 expectant supporters at the Stadium of Light - which, the early signs suggest, Bellingham will comfortably take in his stride.

Neil said: "He has come here to play in front of 40,000 every week and that is something he is going to have to take on mentally, because we can all see how good a player he is technically, physically and tactically.

"It is a different kettle of fish playing up here in front of these fans, but from what I've seen of his personality, he'll take it on just fine."


Sunderland are looking to build on their first win of the season against Rotherham when they travel to Coventry City this weekend.

The Sky Blues came within 90 minutes of the Premier League last season when they lost to Luton Town in the play-off final and are targeting another promotion push this season, but have won only one of their first three games - not that boss Mark Robins is concerned.

He said: “I think we’re going to be good, but at the moment we’re just working our way through.

“Everybody needs to be patient. We’ve got brilliant supporters and they understand.

“But we’ve got to pick up points while we’re going, that’s the key.

“When we’ve worked together a little bit longer, I think you’ll see a different side with more confidence, more fluidity and hopefully more goals and more chances.”