Gary Rowell: Why Duncan Watmore is key to Sunderland's promotion hopes

If Sunderland are to achieve promotion this season, then every player has to deliver, there can be no weak links but as in every campaign some will shine more than others.

Monday, 29th July 2019, 5:45 pm
Sunderland forward Duncan Watmore in action for the Black Cats.

Last season it was Jon McLaughlin and Aiden McGeady who were both outstanding, so who will take top billing this season and be capable of making that crucial difference?

For me, it has to be Duncan Watmore but it will only happen if it is a Duncan Watmore free from injury.

Yes, he has been so injury prone in recent years and needs careful handling that he must have grown sick of the sight of the club’s treatment room and probably all the medical staff - although he will know they are the very people he has needed the most.

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He’s just had incredible bad luck and if anyone deserves a long, injury free run it is Duncan.

If he does get that run, then he can take this division by storm and drag the club along with him to hopefully what will be automatic promotion.

We don’t want the play-offs again. Sunderland fans have seen enough of Wembley, unless it is the FA or League Cup but I will happily settle for first or second in League One.

Duncan Watmore, with a good summer break and crucially a full pre-season behind him, will feel at last he is on a level playing field to all the other players and mentally that will do him the world of good.

Even if he misses the start of the campaign with a tight thigh, that wouldn’t bother me too much, he is too valuable to rush back and it is such a gruelling season there is no reason to take any risks.

Whether playing wide or through the middle, he has that electric pace that defenders dread and while his finishing needs working on, he has got to be targeting double figures.

I believe that is a modest target for a player who potentially could be the difference between last season’s close call and going up this time.