Faced with the SOS task of steering Sunderland to Premier League safety in a nine-game spell, Dick Advocaat opted not to take a chance on the unknown.
Regardless of how prolific Duncan Watmore was at Under-21 level - four goals in as many games coming last April - Advocaat didn’t want to turn to inexperience for the survival battle.
I think it’s lovely when you get a surprise package, or a Brucie bonus!Sam Allardyce
He wanted players who had been there and done it, and with Sunderland retaining their Premier League status, the Dutchman’s decision-making was ultimately justified.
But while Advocaat seemed to begrudgingly use Watmore earlier this season, when he thought the 21-year-old would be best-served by a loan spell in the Championship, successor Sam Allardyce quickly threw him into the fold.
Assistant manager Paul Bracewell - who had worked with Watmore at U21 level - handed Allardyce a glowing reference over the ex-Altrincham man’s ability.
And while Allardyce has had far longer than Advocaat to orchestrate a survival mission, the Sunderland boss says he would still have used Watmore if he had taken the job at the business end of the campaign.
Allardyce revealed: “Paul Bracewell told me that he was good enough.
“Perhaps our expectation wasn’t to start him, but certainly it was always pointed out to me that he had massive impact.
“I just thought, let’s give him a go and see whether he can handle that.
“It’s been great for him and great for us.
“And it puts a lot of pressure on (Adam) Johnson, (Jeremain) Lens, (Fabio) Borini, (Jermain) Defoe, (Steven) Fletcher, because here’s a 21-year-old lad putting their position under threat.
“He can play in any of the front three positions, so not only has he got great ability, but he’s very flexible as well.
“I think it’s lovely when you get a surprise package, or a Brucie bonus!
“It’s a great, great delight as a manager to see somebody who comes over and gives you the unexpected.”
Watmore – who collected his first class degree from Newcastle University yesterday – made only his second Premier League start in last weekend’s defeat at Arsenal.
Yet the England U21 international continued to demonstrate his rapid progress as a Premier League player, albeit he missed one of Sunderland’s four golden opportunities to find the net.
He is in strong contention to remain in the starting XI for tomorrow’s visit of Watford, with Allardyce acknowledging the unique contribution he brings to Sunderland’s forward line.
Allardyce added: “His ability at the moment has been outstanding, in terms of what he has been able to contribute to the team.
“He missed a really good opportunity to put himself back in the headlines last Saturday.
“But I hope he learns from that, continues to play like he does and score goals.
“When we look back at this season, one of our influences might have been Duncan Watmore.
“When I first came in, it could have been the influence of Jermain Defoe, Steven Fletcher, Fabio Borini, Danny Graham or Adam Johnson.
“Let’s hope we’re talking about Duncan Watmore, what he brings to the team and what he’s produced.
“He does something that other players don’t do, which is take the ball in one movement and look to get behind defences first. Not second or third.
“That’s where his strength lies and why he causes so much disfunction to the opposition.”