Jack Ross on the key target for Duncan Watmore as he reflects on Sunderland forward's latest blow

Duncan Watmore is unlikely to play again for Sunderland this season
Duncan Watmore is unlikely to play again for Sunderland this season
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Jack Ross has set Duncan Watmore the target of getting fit before the end of the season.

The Black Cats boss says that will be vitally important for the 25-year-old, who can then enjoy his first summer break in recent times and come back refreshed for a full pre-season campaign.

Watmore's season was all but brought to an end at Wycombe Wanderers last week after a late tackle.

It was all the more cruel on the forward given that it came minutes after his first league goal since returning from two ACL injuries.

Ross is confident that Watmore should not need surgery on his injured ankle.

He says the forward is 'sore' about the latest setback but has no doubts that he will prove his resilience yet again.

Watmore has been ruled out for 8-12 weeks, which means he is highly unlikely to feature before the end of the season, though there would be a slim chance should the Black Cats have to go through the play-offs.

"He's got an appointment soon just to confirm [that he doesn't need surgery]," Ross said.

"That's more precautionary, we're highly confident that he won't, it'll just be a period of rehab which will be preferable.

"He's sore, he'd has to work hard to be back amongst the group regularly, and he's done that.

"He's contributed very obviously and that had rush of emotion you get from scoring a goal and the importance of it, and then there's the games you've got on the horizon.

"Even speaking to him, it would be easy for me to say, 'keep your chin up', I'd rather he said 'it's lousy, I feel rubbish'.

"It's then that you start to get over it and the type of character he is, he's proven himself to be robust mentally in the last couple of years and he'll do that again.

"The target for him is, it might not sound important to others, his target is to get fit by the end of the season.

"If he can do that and make any contribution to us, great.

"If not, it is to ensure that he can actually have a summer off because he's not had that for a couple of years.

"It's a big deal and it's important for him because he's had a tough couple of years."

Ross was keen to dwell on the positives of Watmore's return, having rebuilt both the confidence in his knee and also his body more generally.

"Psychologically he's built himself up over this period," Ross said.

"He built up a confidence in his body to deal with football again, and it's even more frustrating because the initial plan for Duncan was that naturally, he couldn't be involved in three games a week.

"He'd broken down that barrier recently and the injury is nothing to do with the knee, just a bad tackle.

"It's just stressing that, I think if a few months ago you'd said that between now and the end of the season he'd play 14, 15 games and score a couple of goals, he'd have said that's brilliant.

"The way it has come around makes it different but he's got to try and look at the positive for him."