SUNDERLAND'S plan for Chris Rigg a week ago made complete sense - only for it to frustratingly backfire.

The youngster was absent from the matchday squad for the game at Ipswich last Saturday with the FA Youth Cup fourth round tie at Gillingham - that was set to take place three days later - in mind.

"Riggy was due to play in the Youth Cup game which was a seven-hour drive, so we decided not to take him to Ipswich if we weren't going to start him in the game, because otherwise he'd have spent the best part of 25-30 hours on a coach in the last week," explained Beale.

"Then that game gets called off and it's replayed next week."

Sunderland's youngsters will now instead head for Priestfield next Tuesday, January 23, with a home game against Swindon Town up for grabs in the fifth round after the Robins stunned Manchester United this week - but before then comes tonight's first team game against Hull City and Rigg will hope to be involved.

Rigg is no normal 16-year-old. He's a Sunderland record breaker and has already featured six times in the Championship this season, scoring his first goal for the club in the win over Southampton.

But he's yet to feature under Beale and has only twice been named on the bench since returning from the World Cup with England's Under-17s at the end of last year.

That's no cause for concern, says Beale, who has been blown away by the youngster in training but is keen to carefully manage the midfielder.


"He's a 16-year-old boy and it's important he plays in those (youth) games as well and we give him a game a week if he's not getting on the pitch for us," explained Beale.

"He trains with us every single day, it's not like he's dropping down in training. He's with the first team every minute of every day, he has three young midfielders in front of him and he's the type of personality who chases after them every day.

"He has that lovely local spirit, like Dan Neil. He's a lefty, there aren't many left-footed centre-midfielders, that's why Pierre is so unique as well and a good asset. There's lots to like but we have to manage that really well because he's 16.

"This year has been a breakout year for him, scoring against Southampton, he went away with England to the World Cup as well with the Under-17s which meant he missed a period of the season. Since I've come in I've been really pleased with him."