Sunderland boss confirms the youngster set for playing time after Jack Clarke blow - but not just yet

Mike Dodds has been discussing some of the possible contenders to take Jack Clarke's place in the Sunderland XI
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Mike Dodds says Romaine Mundle will be a 'big asset' for Sunderland in the final twelve games of the season but is eager not to put too much pressure on the youngster in Jack Clarke's absence.

Dodds also confirmed that Clarke's injury would create opportunities for young winger Tommy Watson, though the winger is currently sidelined with a minor hamstring issue.

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Mundle, who signed from Standard Liege in January, looks well placed to take Clarke's role in the starting XI after the influential winger was ruled out for six weeks with ankle ligament damage. Dodds made clear in his pre-match press conference that he would not look to directly replace Clarke, and would tweak the way his team set up and play as a result of the blow. Clarke should return to training sometime in April but clearly will have only a limited role to play between now and the end of the season.

"I'm a big Romaine fan and the snippets I've seen, I see a raw talent and a similar type to when Jack signed for the club," Dodds said.

"If he listens and works hard, and there's always a bit of luck in development as well, I think we've potentially got a top, top player. He's going to be a big asset in these twelve games but I don't want to put too much pressure on him because the reality is, if we had a fully fit Jack then we would be integrating him a little bit slower. But you can only deal with the cards you're dealt, but Romaine has a big future and I think he's one the fans can be excited about."

Watson made his senior debut against Huddersfield Town late last season, but saw his progress in pre season impacted by injury. He subsequently signed his first professional contract and Dodds believes he has a big future at the club.

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He has made clear that there will be opportunities for the 17-year-old, who plays in Clarke's position on the left wing, before the end of the campaign. That appears unlikely before the upcoming international break in March, however.

"My absolute utopia really would be a team of Sunderland kids, so I'm always going to have a bias towards those lads," Dodds said.

"Tommy would definitely be someone edging closer to the team, I think at the moment he is another one who is only part training at the moment and so he isn't in our thinking currently. If he gets fit quicker than Jack and I expect that to be the case as it stands, he will certainly be someone in the mix.

"We've got to give those players opportunities and see if they can hit the level, the reality is we know they won't all do it but we've got to give them the opportunity. Tommy is definitely one who, not just myself, but the club as a whole have high hopes for."

Dodds is expecting to name a very similar squad at Norwich City on Saturday.