Simon Grayson welcomed the return of Duncan Watmore’s ‘energy, guile and craft’ to the Sunderland team.
Watmore made his first Sunderland appearance in nine months at Preston on Saturday and Grayson says the forward will feel “unbelievable” after returning to the fold.
The forward had been out since last December after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury but was named on the bench at Deepdale, having come through two Under-23 fixtures.
The 23-year-old came on as a 64th-minute substitute to rapturous applause.
And he showed no signs of rustiness, deployed up front with support from James Vaughan.
Watmore’s pace caused the Preston defence problems for the remainder of the game.
He should have been awarded a penalty after being caught by Ben Davies, while he did well to evade injury following Chris Maxwell’s challenge, the goalkeeper clearly handling outside his area in the process.
Grayson praised the club’s medical departments for their safe handling of Watmore and is pleased to be able to call on his direct style, adding much-needed pace and movement to the forward line.
“Thirty minutes was going to be about his maximum,” said Grayson. “I would have started him if I had the chance, but I have to go with the decision of the medical department.
“He showed what he is capable of doing, taking people on and getting in behind. Duncan is going to give any team quality, with and without the ball. He has energy, guile, craft.
“It would have been so nice for him to score a goal – that would have been the perfect way for him to return.
“But psychologically he will feel unbelievable just for having made his comeback, and the medical staff deserve a lot of credit.
“When he got taken out by Maxwell, Duncan probably didn’t realise that that was the first real tackle he has had since doing his cruciate.
“It should have been a card of some description, yellow or red, because he quite clearly took Duncan out and he also handled the ball.
“I’m not quite sure why that decision went like it did.”