Why England U21 star Duncan Watmore wants to stay at Sunderland despite huge interest

Duncan Watmore
Duncan Watmore

Within minutes of the final whistle, the phone calls began about the scenes witnessed at Goodison Park.

There was plenty to talk about from that eight-goal Sunday afternoon thriller – Sunderland’s kamikaze defending, the quantity of chances the Black Cats created, plus the curve ball Sam Allardyce had delivered with a 3-5-2 formation.

But it was the last 15 minutes – when the final stages were redundant and oxygen was being sought – which prompted a rush of telephone traffic.

Allardyce clearly decided to introduce Duncan Watmore from the bench on Merseyside when the game was dead, so he could take a closer look at the forward; a familiar face to first-team coach and former Under-21s boss Robbie Stockdale.

It was an ideal opportunity to see whether Watmore could live up to the hype in a competitive encounter.

Watmore did just that. In what could easily have been a meaningless cameo, he tore into Everton’s £40million-valued England centre-half John Stones and was a finger-tip save away from audaciously lobbing keeper Tim Howard.

That display clearly didn’t go unnoticed by Allardyce, who handed Watmore his first Sunderland start against Southampton six days later.

But agents and opposition scouts had also been paying attention with a flood of phone calls to Watmore’s camp in the hours that followed.

They included enquiries from Premier League and Championship clubs.

Let’s face it, with Watmore’s contract at the Stadium of Light due to expire next summer, it was an obvious avenue to explore.

Many in Watmore’s profession have played the poker game to maximise their bank balance, when faced with a similar situation.

But Watmore wants to stay put.

He has genuinely been taken aback by the warmth towards him from Sunderland fans and is thriving on a journey which has seen him make his full Premier League bow and net his first England Under-21 goal during the last fortnight.

There was public confirmation of that yesterday after being asked about his contract situation in the wake of his man of the match performance (again after only a 15-minute run-out) in England’s 3-1 win over Switzerland at Brighton earlier this week.

“Do I want to stay at Sunderland? Yes I do. It’s a great club,” said Watmore.

Watmore’s camp and Sunderland were due to meet during this international break for talks, yet Allardyce has already made his feelings clear that he wants to tie the 21-year-old down as quickly as possible.

There was always a suspicion that Dick Advocaat wasn’t necessarily convinced by Watmore.

Advocaat’s plan was to send him out on loan to the Championship, before he would make a final judgement.

But despite suffering a minor hamstring injury on the eve of Allardyce’s first game at the helm, the arrival of the new Sunderland manager has clearly played a part in Watmore’s desire to stay at the Stadium of Light.

“I’m trying to push to play as much as possible,” said Watmore.

“The new manager has been great with me since he came in. He’s given me opportunities.

“If he gives me anymore I just have to make sure I take them and kick on.

“I need to try to ensure I play as much as I can.

“I have played for first team and the Under 21s at Sunderland and now the U21s with England.

“It’s been a great year so far.”