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Chris Rigg makes historic Sunderland debut in the FA Cup

[Photo by Nathan Stirk]

Chris Rigg has become the youngest outfield player ever to feature for Sunderland after making his first team debut in the FA Cup, aged 15 years and 203 days. Rigg replaced Edouard Michut in the 81st minute of the Black Cats third round clash with Shrewsbury Town on Saturday. He becomes the club’s second youngest player ever, only behind goalkeeper Derek Forster who made his debut in 1964 when he was 18 days younger than Rigg.

The midfielder is highly rated by the coaching staff at Sunderland and has made huge steps in his development this season. The future looks bright for the 15-year-old but for those unfamiliar with Rigg here’s a rundown.

Sunderland career so far

Chris Rigg has been part of the Sunderland academy for his entire youth career. He first broke ground with the U18s last season, playing nine matches and grabbing two goals. He caught the eye of coaches from the off, impressing with his performances both in training and in matches.

At the beginning of the 2022/23 season, he began training with the U21s where he has featured three times in Premier League 2 this season. He has also spent some time with the U18s where he has made five appearances in all competitions and grabbed two assists.

Rigg has won a lot of praise from coaches and fans alike this campaign and caught the eye of Black Cats manager Tony Mowbray and began to train with the first team on odd occasions despite still being in school. He has also represented England at U15, U16 and U17 level in 2022 earning 10 caps and scoring two goals in that time.

Chris Rigg for Sunderland in action against Shrewsbury Town to become Sunderland’s youngest ever 1st team player [Photo by Ian Horrocks]

His performances in training impressed Mowbray enough to include Rigg on the bench for Sunderland’s EFL Championship fixture with Blackpool on New Year’s Day. He was again named on the bench against Shrewsbury before coming on with the Black Cats 1-0 down and playing a part in their comeback win in stoppage time.

What does the future hold?

Following an impressive debut, Mowbray believes the youngster’s future lies with the first team this season. Speaking in his post-match press conference the manager revealed Rigg will continue to train with the senior squad instead of the youth team.

He said: “He is still at school, so he gets day release to train with us once or twice a week. On those releases now, in my opinion, he will be training with us rather than with the U21s or U18s.

“I think it’ll progress him faster if he is training and feeling the competition of a first-team level training session. That’s what comes back to me over the last 20 years when young players come up and train with the first-team they all go: it’s so fast!

“It’s much faster than playing U18s football, and the senior players don’t generally show too much respect to young kids because those kids are potentially going to take their places, and that makes it quite competitive in training. It’s sink or swim, and I’m pretty sure this kid is going to swim.”

Rigg has impressed Mowbray with his ability to travel with the ball and to win tackles in training. With the current injury situation at Sunderland, there are set to be a few more opportunities for Rigg to play first team football this season. It’s certainly not out of the question that a league debut for the midfielder could come soon.

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