MICHAEL Beale has described Chris Rigg's mentality as his "super strength" that could take him to the top - but the Sunderland head coach has stressed the importance of not expecting too much too soon from the teenage midfielder on Wearside.

Rigg enjoyed a stunning breakthrough last season, becoming Sunderland's youngest ever outfield player and he scored his first league goal for the Black Cats in September's win over Southampton, his first appearance of the season.

Since returning from the the Under-17 World Cup with England in December, Rigg has only been in three matchday squads for Sunderland and has only played seven minutes of first team football since Beale's appointment.

But the Sunderland head coach has stressed that Rigg remains way ahead of schedule for someone of his age and believes the youngster has a role to play in the remaining months of the Championship campaign.

"It's very hard for a player of his age to be any further forward than he is," said Beale.

"I don't know exactly who he went away with for that World Cup but I'd be fairly sure that he's further forward at his club than many of those players, if not the furthest forward in terms of appearances and the fact that he is training with the first team every day.

"I like his mentality, it's the mentality of a young boy from the local area who is living his dream, and it's important that he keeps that because I think it could take him a long, long way.

"You can talk about the technique he's got, the passing, but I think that mentality is his super strength. With all young players, it's how long you can keep that. He can play a part now, if we play with two eights high or a flat three at times, he can give us real balance on the left of that."


Rigg's only appearance under Beale came from the bench against Stoke and he was left out of the squad at Middlesbrough on Sunday having played the full 90 minutes of the FA Youth Cup defeat to Swindon on Friday night.

Beale said: "I was pleased with Riggy when he came on against Stoke, I was very pleased with him.

"We don't want to talk about age because we believe in their talent, but for someone so young, he showed me that he wants to be involved, he doesn't just want a bit-part role. He wants to play.

"I think it was always going to be the second half of the season that you were going to see him more, but that depends on a lot of factors doesn't it. You always felt it would be that way but there's always fitness and form [to consider] as well.

"He came on against Stoke and contributed, he's got a no-fear mentality. He's a lefty and that gives you a really good balance in the team, too. That's really important to any possession-based team, like we are."