Duncan Watmore could still play at Wembley after comeback challenge from Jack Ross
Sunderland boss Jack Ross has set a comeback target for Duncan Watmore and hopes the striker can return from injury by the end of May.
The Black Cats forward, 25, was initially ruled out for eight to 12 weeks after sustaining ankle ligament damage at Wycombe earlier this month, following an awful challenge by midfielder Marcus Bean.
Watmore is unlikely to play again this season if Sunderland secure automatic promotion, yet the forward could still play a part if the Black Cats end up in the play-offs, according to his dad Ian.
To add insult to injury, Watmore, who has comeback from two ACL injuries in the last two years, suffered his latest setback just minutes after his first league goal since 2015, and will now miss Sunderland’s trip to Wembley for the Checkatrade Trophy final.
“What really annoyed him about it was he’d just had his high,” said Ian. “You can imagine scoring that goal in front of the fans, the equaliser in the 94th minute is the sort of high that you dream of when you’re doing those endless hours of rehab.
“He’s had two years of that and then he finally comes out and does it and then it’s two minutes later and he didn’t really get the chance to enjoy the moment.
“The second thing that dawned on him was he wasn’t going to be able to play at Wembley which is one of the things he’s never actually done.
“Much more importantly he really thought he was just coming into a bit of form and that goal would have spurred him on just at a critical time with games coming up to get to automatic promotion.
“He suddenly realised he wasn’t going to be able to do any of that so he was thinking about the fact he wasn’t going to be able to help the club get up. That was probably the most dominant emotion.”
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Despite the understandable disappointment, Watmore has been boosted by the constant messages he and his family have received on social media.
He is also surrounded by “outstanding” support and management teams who are committed to helping him back.
“He had a bit of a down week last week but the thousands of messages we got on Twitter and everywhere else just really helped him,” added Ian.
“The club has had a good couple of games and the manager has given him a target to get himself playing fit again by the end of May so he can have a proper pre-season.
“I think probably in the back of his head, he hopes he doesn’t have to play again this season because it means automatic promotion, but if there was a need to go to Wembley for the play-off final, he might just be fit for that.”
Still, there seems little chance Jack Ross will rush Watmore back too soon, with the Sunderland boss only willing to do what’s best for the player.
“Jack Ross has been unbelievable, no hint of putting himself, Jack Ross first, always putting Duncan first,” added Ian.
“Even if it would have been good to have been tried in a couple of games he said no, duty of care long-term career.”