The return of Duncan Watmore to action has given the whole Sunderland squad a big lift, says goalkeeper Jason Steele.
The 23-year-old missed nine months with a serious knee injury but made his return from the subs bench in the 2-2 draw with Preston North End ahead of the international break.
Steele says Watmore’s timely return has boosted morale at the Academy of Light, a much-needed lift given Sunderland are second bottom in the Championship.
“As soon as Duncan came on, it gave everyone a massive lift,” said Steele.
“Hopefully, he can carry that on over the next few weeks and months, and build on his confidence and fitness.
“Even in training, you can see what an asset he is going to be to us.
“We all know pace is a massive part of the game now, and having somebody so direct and willing to chase lost causes, who makes clever runs, is going to be massive for us over the next few games.
“Hopefully, he stays fit, and fingers crossed he can score a few goals and boost everyone,” added Steele, who has returned to the Sunderland side in place of Robbin Ruiter for the last two games.
Steele is expected to retain his place for the visit of Queens Park Rangers to the Stadium of Light next Saturday when the Championship resumes.
“The performance [at Preston] was good, and I think it’s definitely given us a lift and it’s something we can build on,” added Steele.
“Maybe the international break has come at the wrong time because we looked like a good side on Saturday.
“I thought we had a good start to the season, and a good change of mentality, but when you lose a few games, it’s sort of back to square one.
“We started giving each other and everybody a lot of hope, but it’s been tough over the last month-and-a-half or so.
“I think it’s a case of regrouping now, working really hard and trying to put a few things in place we can take into the next few games.
“That’s got to be our aim now, to start winning football matches and stop all the talk. Everybody keeps saying we’re nearly there, but it’s about time we were winning games.”