MIKE Dodds has outlined the Sunderland importance of Chris Rigg and, while the interim head coach says the teenager offers crucial versatility, it's in the centre of midfield where he believes the England youth international will shine in the long run.

Rigg only featured twice from the bench and saw just 32 minutes of action during Michael Beale's 12 games in charge of the Black Cats, but it was the 16-year-old who Dodds turned to in his first game as interim head coach as Sunderland attempted a second half fightback against Swansea City at the weekend.

Rigg was introduced from the bench just after the 70-minute mark and helped spark an improvement as Dodds' side halved the deficit through Luke O'Nien and pushed for a leveller.

Although the equaliser didn't come, Rigg impressed Dodds and while the teenager is likely to have to continue to settle for a place on the bench, he's almost certain to feature much more in the coming weeks than he did during Beale's tenure.


"Riggy is a good player," says Dodds.

"I was asked in one interview whether the young group is an issue, age is completely irrelevant for me. Regardless of Chris's age, all I see is a good footballer.

"When you have someone like Chris Rigg, you can play him, I wouldn't say anywhere, but in terms of midfield, we played him wider (against Swansea) but the instruction was to be wide and come inside to try and get him in the ball.

"That was more because I just felt the midfield three got more of a grip of the game and I didn't want to disrupt them, but I also wanted to get Chris on because I understand his quality and what he brings to the team.

"I think he'll be a midfielder long-term and I think as time goes on he'll be a really important player for us."

Rigg was joined on the bench against Swansea by 18-year-old Tom Lavery, with the defender included in a matchday squad for the first time.

Lavery said: "It was a dream come true when I found out. The result didn't go our way but the whole experience was top. It was just a great experience and I'm hoping to get more in the future.

"I rang my dad straight away when I found out I was on the bench. My family were so happy. I've been here since I was nine so to get in a matchday squad like that was a dream come true."