Why Duncan Watmore is relishing another big challenge at Sunderland under 'intelligent' Jack Ross
Duncan Watmore is no stranger to facing challenges - and he will soon be posed with another one at the Stadium of Light.
For while the Sunderland ace has overcome two serious knee injuries and returned to senior football, he now faces a battle to nail down a starting place in Jack Ross’ new-look squad.
The likes of Josh Maja, Lynden Gooch, Chris Maguire and Aiden McGeady have all impressed in attacking areas this season - meaning the 24-year-old faces an uphill battle to reclaim his starting place.
But Watmore won’t be complaining about facing such intense competition, claiming it only serves to emphasise the strength of the Black Cats’ squad.
Instead, he is relishing the chance to show what he can do.
“I think competition is brilliant,” he admitted.
“If you come into a team and you’re starting straight away it’s maybe a sign that the club is not in a position where you want to be, whereas it’s the complete opposite here.
“It’s going to be very hard for me to get my position back, which is great and something I am really excited about because the lads are doing well.
“The only way I can is by playing better than them and they’re playing really well, so it’s a challenge but it can only be a good thing.”
But while pursuing a first-team place, Watmore will have the full backing of manager Jack Ross - who already sees how the pacy attacker will fit into his preferred style of play.
And Watmore, too, can see clear evidence of how he can flourish while playing Ross’ brand of attacking football - while praising his ‘intelligent’ boss for how he handled his comeback.
“He’s just been brilliant,” he added.
“He’s been patient and he’s managed me well.
“We’re at a stage now where we can kick on and hopefully I can play more.
“He’s attacking, he’s a really good coach to work under and is intelligent - as is his coaching staff.
“It’s been brilliant and playing exciting football is something I like playing, across any of the top three positions.
“I like playing exciting, attacking football so I’m really excited to get in and amongst that and be a part of it.”
Watmore completed 78 minutes of the 1-0 defeat to Walsall on Tuesday evening and, while that was a big step forward, he is aware that patience is still required as he eyes a League One comeback.
For while the work on training ground has aided his recovery - Watmore knows he is some way off full sharpness.
“We’ve put in a lot of work and it’s not been easy,” he said.
“But as I keep saying, the amount of work we’ve done and all the guys who’ve put in work with me, it doesn’t recreate the match day environment.
“It just takes a while to get back to that.
“There are moments when I feel sharp and then it’s just maintaining that fitness on the pitch, which is going to take a while.”