Why Sunderland will soon see the real Charlie Wyke as Jack Ross takes the blame for sluggish start
Charlie Wyke should return to Sunderland action this month, and Jack Ross says fans will see a 'different player'.
Wyke is back in full training after picking up a knee injury in a nasty collision with Burton Albion goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov.
That was back in September, the last time the Black Cats lost a game.
Wyke arrived at the club carrying a knee injury, and while Ross says rushing the striker back did not contribute to his second blow, he did feel it was too soon for the 25-year-old to make a real impact.
Wyke scored just minutes into his Sunderland debut against Oxford United, but looked off the pace in subsequent outings.
Ross thinks it will be a different story this time around.
"I would hope by the end of month he would be there or thereabouts in terms of being available for the squad," Ross said.
"I take my responsibility for rushing him the first time, not in relation to the re-injury because that was completely separate.
"Just the levels he was at, I think we asked a lot of him too quickly.
"Whereas this time we've been a bit more patient, he feels a lot better physically and mentally.
"He looks a lot sharper and if we can do that for another couple of weeks, when he comes back he'll be an asset for us.
"It's been challenging for him," Ross added.
"A couple of things have been clear from it.
"One is that he's desperate to do well here. He's a good character, he's quite a strong character, positive.
"He's taken the blows of the two injuries really well in terms of saying, 'OK I'm going to get through and I still believe I can contribute to the season'.
"I've certainly seen that from him.
"Then, on the training pitch, I've spoken about that psychological impact, he definitely thinks he's going to come back and be at it this time.
"As I said, I take my responsibility for rushing him back too quickly."
Ross will be eager to take the patient approach with Wyke, and in his absence the 19-year-old Josh Maja has continued to defy all expectations with his sensational scoring form.
Jerome Sinclair has also impressed his manager, even if the goals have not been so easy to come by for the Watford loanee.
Wyke, however, will unquestionably add a welcome dimension to the Sunderland side.
His Football League record reflects a proven goalscorer and he can also add some bulk to a side that Ross admits regularly gives up height and physicality to the opposition.
Wyke signed a three-year deal after arriving in the summer, a clear sign of the esteem in which Ross and the Sunderland hierarchy hold the player.
It may take time for him to capture his best form but it is another reason why Ross expects a quiet January window.
"The clearest way of saying it is that if in January we signed Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore, everyone would say those were brilliant signings," Ross said.
"Having them back in that period will be a big bonus for us.
"Charlie gives us something that we don't have from our other forward players.
"I've spoken about Duncan and how he's a threat in behind that the others don't really do.
"Charlie gives us a presence, an aerial target.
"He's a threat from cross balls which gives us a different dynamic to our game.
"It gives us a presence in both boxes from set pieces, so there are loads of pluses that he'll give us when he's back.
"The players know that, as well.
"I think I've got an intelligent squad in that way, they recognise the attributes of the players in it and they'll know that Charlie being back available, whether it be from the bench or starting games, can benefit them as well."