After Norwich City completed the signing of Sunderland full-back Bali Mumba on Monday, we spoke to a Sunderland-based football journalist to find out more.
Phil Smith covers the Black Cats fortunes for the Sunderland Echo, and has followed Mumba’s progression through his eleven years at the club.
canaries.co.uk: What can you tell us about Bali, having watched him at Sunderland?
PS: He came into the first team at 16, initially as a centre-midfielder. Sunderland had just been relegated to League One so it was a bit of a mad summer, a transition with a lot of players leaving.
Bali got his chance in pre-season and really impressed. He was very calm on the ball, and although physically he didn’t compare to the midfielders he was playing against, his maturity and composure stood out.
He started the season signing his first pro deal, and he was always in and around the squad, but Sunderland signed another couple of battle-hardened League One midfielders.
This season, he’s mostly been with the Under-23s, where he started to play more at right-back than centre-midfield.
canaries.co.uk: He wore the captain’s armband when he came on for his Sunderland debut, correct?
PS: Yeah, that was the final day of the Championship season, so that was his official debut. It was a bit of a symbolic thing really, because John O’Shea, who was captain, was coming off in his final appearance.
It was a bit of a symbolic gesture of a new era, but it showed what a big impression he’d made as a 16-year-old training with the first team group.
💬 "The history of the club is very good, as well as the way it’s run and the way it produces young players is very good for such a young player like me."@BaliMumba8's first words as a Norwich City player ⬇️— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) July 27, 2020
🤜 #MumbaJoins 🤛 pic.twitter.com/QZkP8pFxLM
canaries.co.uk: He’s been on loan to South Shields recently. How has he gone on there?
PS: He didn’t play many games because, like it did for all of us, life got in the way with the pandemic. He played three games in more of an attacking role there because that’s how their team is set up, so he played off the wing.
He made a great impression. It was good for him because he took a few whacks. An academy kid with a big reputation going into that level of senior football is going to take a few whacks, but he dealt with it well and showed some end product as well.
It was only very brief because of what we all went through, but it underlined that he’s got plenty of talent as a dribbler and in the technical side of his game.
canaries.co.uk: With those traits in mind, we imagine Sunderland fans are disappointed to lose Mumba from the Stadium of Light?
PS: I think there’s disappointment that they haven’t seen more of him. Every young player has their ups and downs, so some fans are very proud of the way he broke through and wish him all the best.
There’s probably just a frustration that they haven’t had a chance to see more of him and what he could have potentially done.
canaries.co.uk: He’s spoken to us about how he wants to follow in the footsteps of full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis. Do you see him fitting into our style of play like they do?
PS: Yeah, I think it will be very interesting because he’s not really played right-back at senior level before, so it’s going to be a bit of the step into the unknown.
I don’t think anyone can say he’ll definitely be a success or he won’t be because he’s only really played full-back at Under-23s level, but what I would say is he’s a very strong dribbler and very calm on the ball.
If you’re a team playing attacking football and having a lot of possession, fingers crossed that kind of setup will be a good environment for him to impress, but I’m sure Norwich are fully aware it’s a step into the unknown for everybody.
He comes across as a very down to earth lad. It’s obviously served him well so far and I’m sure Norwich are aware of that as well.