KRISTJAAN Speakman says Sunderland were always confident of keeping Chris Rigg this summer, despite interest from the Premier League - with everyone now focused on ensuring the midfielder continues his rapid trajectory with the Black Cats.

Rigg put an end to any uncertainty surrounding his future when he signed a new three-year-deal at the Stadium of Light earlier this week, the 17-year-old's first professional contract.

Despite a slight delay in putting pen to paper while Rigg awaited head coach clarity, there was always a belief among Sunderland bosses that the England youth international would commit his future to the club.

Speakman says Rigg and those close to him are happy with the way his route has been mapped out in the very early stages of his career on Wearside.

But he says it's crucial that Rigg continues to move forward after signing what the sporting director described as a "significant" and "hugely positive" deal.


"I think retaining talent's really difficult in the last few years because of all the finances that are involved in the game, quite rightly," said Speakman.

"You know, the profile of the clubs that are out there. So, for us to be able to get Chris over the line was obviously really significant for us.

"Internally, we didn't have too many doubts about that. We've got a really positive relationship with Chris. We've got a positive relationship with Chris' family.

"I think if you looked at his development journey, you wouldn't be able to pick too much fault how he's progressed into the team, into the squad."

Rigg made his debut in the FA Cup in the 2022/23 campaign but was only once named in a matchday squad for a Championship game that season. Last term, he was in the squad on 33 occasions and featured 21 times in the league, including eight starts.

The aim this year is to take another step forward.

Speakman said: "Ultimately, we just need to be agreed on what the trajectory is going forward. I know how happy he was to sign.

"I think how happy he was to put it to bed because he's a young boy and he has to put up with all that scrutiny and questioning. So, for us, it's part of the job. We accept it.

"But obviously, naturally, it's really, really good to get him signed up and I think obviously it's a huge positive for the club and the fanbase."