Exclusive: Duncan Watmore on his Sunderland pride, dealing with social media negativity and his generous Christmas donation
Duncan Watmore leans back in a church pew.
A nativity scene is being assembled just in front of him, signalling the closure of another year. It’s a chance to reflect - on what was, and what is to come.
Watmore cuts a relaxed figure - although there may be an element of exhaustion involved. He has, after all, just spent half an hour helping prepare evening meals for Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen. He will continue after our interview, too, before then heading to the warehouse rented by the charity to learn more about the work they do.
Appearances like this are common over the festive period, but Watmore’s support extends much further than shaking a few hands and posing for a picture.
He has already donated £1,000 to the soup kitchen alongside his family, and has pledged to return to help them dish out meals on an evening.
The forward is also perhaps the only third tier player to be part of the Common Goal project - an initiative founded by Manchester United’s Juan Mata, which sees Watmore donate 1% of his salary to charity.
An ‘easy decision’, he says.
“I feel like I can help the community and those who are less fortunate than myself.
“I feel like I should do it. It’s part of my responsibility and something I enjoy doing. But having said that, there are so many people doing a lot, lot more than me who are giving up their time and effort.
“They’re the real ones who are giving back and are helping so much, just like the people we’ve seen today.
“There are so many people making a difference every single day which is great.
“Things like this are an easy decision and its the best thing you can do, to put it to causes like this and help.”
And such work helped provide a welcome distraction for Watmore during a testing time, which saw him sidelined with a string of long-term injuries.
During that time, there were calls on social media for the 25-year-old to be released; some suggesting he was not worth persisting with.
Watmore, though, knows the negativity on social media can be amplified. He steers clear of such avenues for that reason.
So what does he make, then, of the vocal minority who vent their views online?
“Look, I always know I’ve given my best.
“The injuries - there’s nothing I could have done about them. I wish there was, but there wasn’t.
“I’ve had to accept them for what they are and I know it’s frustrating. I can tell you it’s frustrating and how frustrating it has been for me.
“But I think you can get swamped down by some of that negative stuff on social media. I try to avoid that where I can.”
At the Emmanuel Community Church, where Watmore helps peeling potatoes and preparing sandwiches, the mood could not be more different.
Watmore is warmly greeted, with photograph requests aplenty. He takes time to chat with supporters, who share his view that the Black Cats are just around the corner from a positive string of results.
Such support isn’t lost on Watmore.
“I feel very grateful for the support I’ve got.
“Coming down and speaking to the fans and people who are part of the community, there’s so much positivity and goodness.
“It’s great to see, to get out there and be a part of it.
“The club has given me a great chance, they stuck by me, and I feel like I’ve got back to a fitness level I’m happy with.
“Now I want to keep playing and repay the faith the club and supporters have shown in me.”
His injuries are in the past, but what about what is to come?
Watmore has returned to the side in recent weeks, impressing under Phil Parkinson and is keen to repay a community that has backed him since his arrival in 2013.
“I owe a lot to this area, this football club.
“I’ll give back wherever I can.
“Even though on the pitch we’ve had a tricky couple of years, I still feel very proud to be a part of this football club and this area.”