Jobe Bellingham: Sunderland life, Mowbray influence & Newcastle clash11 December 2023
There have been times this season when Jobe Bellingham has almost surprised himself.
The 18-year-old had only made a handful of starts in the Championship before sealing his move to Sunderland in the summer, but since then he has been a near ever-present.
"I feel like it's going really well," Bellingham tells Sky Sports.
"I've learned a lot in a short space of time I've been here, and that's thanks to great coaches, team-mates and the manager I've had here. I'm really thankful for all that, and the fact that fans have taken to me.
"At the start of the season, it wasn't the plan to start so many games, but I feel like I've earned it with my performances and hard work. I had the belief in myself that I could, and I'm glad I've played so many, and long may it continue."
Even despite his relative lack of playing time, Bellingham admits it was a tough choice to move on from his boyhood club. But he knows he made the right one.
"It was a big decision for me," he says. "Emotionally it was tough, but from a football perspective, it was a no-brainer, with the chances Sunderland give young players, and with the direction the club want to go in.
"Young players need to be in an environment to show what they're capable of, and in this team, you can. We play without pressure, and it looks like mates in the park at times, which sometimes can be a bad thing! But it's a really good feeling."
Naturally, one of his goals this season came against his former club, when Birmingham visited the Stadium of Light in November.
Bellingham scored the opener in a 3-1 win, but he showed respect for where he was raised with a muted celebration.
"It would have been quite dishonourable to celebrate against a club I loved so much and played at for 10 years," he says.
"It was the right thing to do, but it is hard, because when you score it's such a great feeling!"
The situation has changed rapidly at Sunderland since that win. A failure to win their next three games led to the departure of Tony Mowbray - the man who brought Bellingham to Wearside.
He admits it has been a rough period, especially considering the success he brought to the club last season, and the platform he had given him to perform.
"We were quite shocked," admits Bellingham. "But we tried to react as fast as possible and refocus on the games coming up.
"He'll be a big miss as a person around the place. We loved playing under him and the fans loved him, too.
"He was such a good person, and he wanted to see all of us improve every day as players and people.
"He made me a more mature player in a short space of time. He took away pressure on matchdays for us, and it was such a good feeling.
"You just feel like you're going out there and expressing yourself. I'm really grateful I got to work with him."
Bellingham had started the first 18 games of the season in a variety of different roles through the middle of the pitch.
He admits he is still unsure where he belongs, whether deeper in midfield or further forward up top.
"I know playing box-to-box is what I enjoy the most, because you can get stuck in and drive forward," he says.
"I can show more of what I'm capable of in that position, but I do think I have a good skillset as a striker or a No 10.
"I have an internal desire to score goals, because it's something I want to do. But it has never come from anywhere else. It is a healthy pressure. A motivation."
A different kind of motivation has also presented itself on the horizon. Sunderland host Newcastle in the FA Cup third round in January. It will be the first time the clubs have met since 2016, and Bellingham is aware that the Black Cats have not lost to their fierce rivals in more than a decade.
"We couldn't believe it when the draw happened," he says. "We were all as buzzing as you can imagine. Hopefully we can bring some pride to the fans.
"You don't really realise [how big the club is] until you get here and play in front of the fans. And going away from home, they sell out everything as soon as possible. It's not like that everywhere. It's really special and unique."
The real goal, beyond beating Newcastle, is returning Sunderland to one day go toe-to-toe with them in the top flight.
"It would mean the world to the club to get back there," says Bellingham. "The fans have been craving it for years and I feel it's where we belong.
"It would be another opportunity to play against the best clubs and teams, and showcase myself against the best in the world."
A teenager with the world at his feet. You know he will be there sooner or later. Sunderland fans will hope it is with them.
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This news item was provided by the SkySports | News website - the original link is: https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11688/13025678/jobe-bellingham-interview-life-at-sunderland-influence-of-tony-mowbray-and-facing-newcastle