Mikael Mandron

Mandron on the rise

Young striker mulls over whirlwind year.

Mikael Mandron is simply happy to make his family proud and vindicate his decision to swap his native France for Wearside.

The towering 18-year-old is a name increasingly on the lips of Sunderland fans having been promoted to first-team duty despite only having just completed his two-year youth scholarship.

Mandron, a striker, had little idea of what was to come when he headed over the English Channel on trial back in 2011.

He did enough to be offered a scholarship ahead of the 2011-12 season and hasn’t looked back since, although he admitted the move was initially tough on both himself and his family.

“On one side they were sad I was going away from home, especially my mum because she was going to miss me and my brother as well because we are really close,” the affable Frenchman explained.

“On the other side they knew it was my dream and what I’ve always wanted to do so they were really happy with me to go to Sunderland and do what I want to do.

“I didn’t find it hard because everyone here welcomed me really, really well.

“I was surprised because straight away I felt like I was part of the team and part of the club so on this side of things it went really well.”

Mandron netted six goals in 24 games during his first campaign and returned from the 2012 summer break in fine fettle.

Twelve goals in 13 games to kick off the campaign earned a promotion to the under-21 side as his goalscoring prowess attracted attention.

The big frontman continued to make progress and was first called into the senior squad for the home defeat to Manchester United, where he was an unused sub.

He was a squad member for the Tyne-Wear derby win over Newcastle and a long-awaited debut soon arrived, albeit in difficult circumstances.

The 6-1 defeat at Aston Villa was reaching its dying moments when number 30 entered the action.

Mandron nearly scored a goal – a powerful close-range header – only to see the effort saved as he announced his presence live on Sky Sports.

“I’ll always remember that day [debut v Aston Villa] making my debut I stepped on the pitch and thought what am I doing here?” he explained.

“I really enjoyed it because I got on the ball quite a bit and I got a chance, I nearly scored, I wish I did.”

And far from being jealous, Mandron’s youth-team colleagues were front and centre amongst his biggest fans, something the Frenchman says highlights the togetherness amongst the youngsters.

“They [under-18 squad] were all so happy for me, almost as happy as me, I got texts off all my mates after the game saying well done and they were all very happy for me.

“They’ve never changed the way they’ve treated me because I haven’t changed – they’ve all been great, shown a lot of support and all been happy for me.”

He added: “We’ve been together two years and we’ve had some great moments and this year we won our league and that just shows that we’ve worked really hard over the two years.

“It just shows how much of a team we are how much we help each other and push each other forward; I’m going to miss them during the summer.”

Mandron clocked up one further appearance, again as a late substitute, during the 1-0 reverse at Spurs on the final day of the campaign.

New head coach Paolo Di Canio now leads his side into his first close-season in charge and Mandron feels he’s certainly benefitted from the Italian’s guiding hand.

Indeed, he’s eager to learn from a man who is considered one of the greatest forwards to have played the game in recent times and whose CV shows more than 120 senior goals.

“He’s [Paolo Di Canio] been great, he’s trying to coach me and make me improve and me develop in training.

“I think it’s great how he treats everyone the same, the young ones, the older ones - he’s trying to make everyone improve and get everyone involved.

“The way he does things he makes you feel like you are part of the group.

“He gave me my chance twice and I’m very pleased with that and I’ve got to thank him for that.

“He gives a lot of tips and advice in terms of positioning, movement and how to attack the space, how to attack the box and how to cross and get away from your defender and stuff like that.”