‘Roadrunner’ Duncan Watmore is glad to be back with a bang after returning to action ahead of schedule to keep Sunderland’s survival hopes alive.
Watmore was originally expected to be sidelined for three months when he suffered ankle ligament damage during February’s draw at Liverpool, yet returned to full training last week and was thrown straight into the action as a half-time substitute in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Norwich City.
Boss Sam Allardyce turned to Watmore at the interval to replace the ineffectual Wahbi Khazi, and that decision paid off with the 22-year-old stretching the Canaries on the counter-attack throughout the second half.
The England Under-21 international – nicknamed Roadrunner by Allardyce – eventually sealed a crucial three points for Sunderland in stoppage time, as the third bottom Black Cats moved within a point of Norwich.
Watmore told the Gazette: “A lot of credit goes to the medical department at the club for getting me back ahead of schedule. They’ve worked really hard with me.
“It’s great to get that goal and show the hard work has paid off.
“The staff just wanted me to stretch the game and take us up the pitch, and make sure we got people in the right areas.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to go straight back in and get that 45 minutes.
“I probably should have done better on a couple of those breakaways.
“J (Jermain Defoe) is always making great runs and it’s a matter of finding him. But that comes with experience and I’ll learn to make those better decisions.
“But I’m glad I got the goal in the end.”
Victory at Carrow Road was a triumph of character for Sunderland, when Allardyce’s players were well aware that defeat would realistically have left the Black Cats with too much to do to remain in the Premier League.
Sunderland now have the chance to overhaul Norwich when they face their game in hand against Arsenal next weekend, with the Canaries not in action due to a clash with the FA Cup.
Watmore added: “I think we were all very confident. You could tell everyone was really up for it and ready.
“There’s a lot of experience in that dressing room, and I think we all stood together for the task in hand.
“It was a nice feeling afterwards, but we’re nowhere near there yet and we’ll be focusing on Arsenal next weekend.
“There’s a lot of leaders in the team and you need that. I’m always trying to learn from them. Hopefully that can help us.
“We’re not going to get complacent or anything like that, but you have to use the momentum positively and take it into the next game.
“We need to make sure we build on it and make sure it’s not just a one-off win.
“We’ve got a couple of tricky games against good teams, but we have to be ready for that.”