David Jones: Duncan Watmore can look to Lionel Messi on how to cope with boot boys

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, centre, takes on the Juventus defence during the Champions League final.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi, centre, takes on the Juventus defence during the Champions League final.
0
Have your say

These are dizzying times to be a Sunderland fan: back to back wins before December for the first time since we returned to the Premier League in 2007.

Only once since then – under the stewardship of Ricky Sbragia in 2008 – have we managed that simple feat before Christmas.

Marton Fulop was in goal for those two victories – a 4-0 home win over West Brom and a 4-1 success at Hull City – so it was fitting that he should be remembered so affectionately before the game got going on Saturday.

Sadly that fortnight was as good as it got for Sunderland in 2007/08 as we scraped five points from the last 13 games; stumbling to safety with just 36 points!

So it’s hardly time to get carried away with the turnaround in our fortunes especially with such a daunting group of fixtures on the immediate horizon.

We remember too well ghosts of Christmas past, such as last season when entering December in 14th place Sunderland won two of the next 17 matches: plunging the club into another crisis.

But there is a new optimism around and a new found sense of confidence among the players after seeing off Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Just as well because trips to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City this month are not for the faint of heart.

I’m guessing Sam Allardyce will take a pragmatic view this month and with home games with Watford and Liverpool also in the mix the target is probably no more than five points from those five matches.

But a point at injury hit Arsenal this weekend followed up with a win over Watford would set us up very nicely for Christmas.

There are more and more reasons to be confident.

Watching Saturday’s game I found myself casting my mind back to the last time I had watched Stoke.

It was against Chelsea a month ago, live on Saturday Night Football, when they were cutting open the Champions defence at will.

Their back four were imperious and barely looked troubled by the threat of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro; over £100m worth of talent.

Fast forward to Saturday at the Stadium of Light and the sight of Duncan Watmore running that same defence ragged: what a joy.

I’ve found myself talking and writing about Watmore a lot recently, but he keeps on surprising us, keeps on raising the bar.

But young players with that ability to unsettle a defensive line as accomplished and experienced as Stoke’s do not come around too often.

Watmore looks a solid nuggety type: he has that stooped running style that keeps him low to the ground and makes it hard for defenders to knock him off the ball.

It means often the only way to stop him is to literally bring him down: clearly he is going to take more than his fair share of knocks.

As he is exposed to more Premier League football, defenders will learn more about his direct running and try and come up with a different plan.

But in the meantime Watmore will have to brave, will have to be resilient to some tough treatment and I have no fears on both counts he will be just fine.

For the perfect example he can look to the very best; Lionel Messi is not only the most brilliant footballer of his generation, but he is also surely the most kicked.

Yet you rarely see Messi complain, rarely see him rolling around on the turf after tumbling, yet he knows he’s got his team higher up the pitch and often with a free-kick in a dangerous attacking position.

Watmore truly can be a potent weapon for Sunderland in the Allardyce era.

Back to back wins and a young player who’s the talk of the league ... pass me the bubbly!