Sunderland began their first season back in the Championship for ten years reasonably well. After an overhaul in the playing squad and managerial team during the summer, this came as a welcome surprise. Once the season got going, however, the Black Cats began to struggle badly. Several defeats coupled with poor displays have left fans with an all too familiar feeling.
Amongst several areas where Sunderland lacked was genuine pace. After nine months out, the soon-to-return England Under-21 international Duncan Watmore could be what the Black Cats require in their time of need. After their recent defeat at Ipswich Town, times are desperate at the club.
Can the Returning Duncan Watmore Spark Sunderland Back Into Life?
First-team appearances and injury
After impressive performances for Sunderland’s U23’s and various England sides, he made the transition to the first-team with ease. Under Sam Allardyce and David Moyes, Watmore was getting more and more game time. Although still young and still learning, his pace, directness and eye for a goal was making him a regular and a constant threat to opposition defenders.
During the summer of 2016, the young Englishman was part of the England Under-21 side which won the Toulon Tournament. During the early part of last season, he was becoming a key layer for David Moyes as the Black Cats battled relegation. The future was looking bright for the talented forward, but in December against Leicester City at the Stadium of Light, disaster struck. A serious knee injury occurred which ruled out the youngster for the rest of the season and beyond.
As expected, Watmore missed the rest of last season’s disastrous relegation campaign and pre-season under new manager Simon Grayson. The young forward had to be patient during an understandably frustrating time as he watched the team struggle whilst continuing his rehabilitation.
Back in action
On September 16th, he made his long awaited return. He featured for 45 minutes and scored for Sunderland’s Under-23’s as they drew away at Manchester City. The forward was understandably pleased to be back:
“It was a great because it has obviously been a frustrating nine months as you can imagine but it is great to be back playing again so I really enjoyed it.”
He followed the City game by playing a further 70 minutes during the Under-23’s home defeat to West Ham United. Although the game ended in defeat, fans and first team manager Simon Grayson will be delighted that the young forward is on the road to recovery. The Black Cats have struggled of late and Watmore could be the player to provide the spark which turns their season around. The team has lacked pace, creativity and goals, and he could be vital.
Simon Grayson, however, will not want to rush the player.
“It would be nice to have him back, but we have to be careful with his livelihood rather than think short-term about the next two games. “But if I am given the all-clear, I will certainly take that invitation to have him back in the squad.”
The news that the youngster could soon be back in the matchday squad will be a huge boost to Grayson, the club and fans alike. A fully-fit Duncan Watmore could prove invaluable. At the moment, any positive will be welcome on Wearside.
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