FOR a small team from the Wee County, Alloa's influence has been keenly felt from the Southside of Glasgow to the banks of the River Wear.

Just ask Lee Connelly, who didn't know it at the time but his formative years at Sunderland, the great sleeping giant of English football, were very much made in Clackmannanshire.

It was Jack Ross – still widely regarded at the Recs as one of the most promising managers in the Scottish game – who handed Connelly his debut for the Black Cats and the former Alloa boss couldn't help but be impressed by the then teenager.

"Lee Connelly has an infectious way of playing," Ross said after seeing him in action against Carlisle United in October 2018. "The energy he has is great. He's still a very young man."

Ross' time at the Stadium of Light may have come to an end but his influence on both the youngster and Alloa lives on.

It's early days for Connelly in Clacks but he has already impressed in his time on the pitch and says he can see similarities between how the Black Cats go about their business and the Wasps.

"Jack Ross really helped me and the Scottish connection was a big thing," Connelly, 20, told Advertiser Sport. "He was helpful with me.

"The training was quite similar [to Alloa] because of the intensity and he was really good coach. I enjoyed being a part of the sessions."

Connelly became Peter Grant's first signing of the transfer window when he put pen to paper on a loan move from Sunderland earlier this month.

Grant has long been an admirer of the Scotland youth international and he was delighted as Connelly played a part in Kevin O'Hara's second goal on Saturday.

It was another positive to take from the Scottish Cup clash, though Alloa ultimately lost 3-2 to visitors Inverness.

His move to the Wasps was influenced by Paddy Connolly, whose son Aidan – now of Falkirk – played with Connelly at one of Glasgow's historic institutions.

"I know Paddy from playing with his son at Queen's Park when I was younger," Connelly said.

"I wanted to get out on loan and try something different and it was Paddy who brought me to my first few sessions.

"That's how I got to know them and I was happy and they seem pretty happy with me as well.

"He was telling me that Alloa is a good club to come to and that we play good football as well.

"I am obviously not going to win the majority of headers if it is just long balls, so that was very encouraging."

The chance to join a dressing room of experienced heads who have been there and done that was also too good for Connelly to miss.

He said: "This level is perfect for me and that has given me a bit of confidence that I can play at this level and they trust me to.

"It's different for me because when I am at Sunderland it is just a bunch of young lads, but when you have the older ones they know more about the game.

"They have higher expectations because they have all played so many games."