Jack Ross reveals why this Sunderland player has been a 'big plus' this pre-season
Duncan Watmore is reaping the rewards of taking part in his first full pre-season for three years.
Watmore hasn’t missed a training session since the players returned and Jack Ross has described it as a ‘big plus’ to have the forward fit and pushing for a starting spot.
The 25-year-old had previously been unable to take part in a full pre-season schedule since 2016, with a spate of serious injuries and two major cruciate knee ligament operations hampering his involvement.
But having recovered from a further knee injury sustained in the 1-1 draw with Wycombe Wanderers in March, Watmore is fit and raring to go ahead of the new League One campaign - which kicks-off on August 3.
Watmore was a second half sub in the 2-0 friendly win over South Shields last Thursday, when the forward looked bright as the Black Cats got off to a winning start.
The squad played an in-house game behind closed doors on Saturday before they jet off to Portugal in midweek ahead of a training camp and two friendly games.
Watmore will be looking to press his claims for a starting spot when the action kicks off for real with the visit of Oxford United in early August.
Ross has been impressed with Watmore - who is ‘stronger and fitter’ than when he came back last season.
Ross said: “I have kept pushing and pushing for him to break barriers and he has bought into that.
“He has not missed a session in pre-season and that is good.
“Even before the game against South Shields he was a little bit stiff, as we had a session before the game, but again it is about breaking that barrier.
“He looks like he is stronger and fitter than he was when he came back last season and that is a big plus for us."
Watmore himself, meanwhile, believes a full pre-season will only aid him as a potentially-gruelling season progresses.
“I want to play football games and the only way to do that is by working hard on and off the pitch,” he said.
“Hopefully, with a bit of luck, I will stay away from the injuries and string a few games together.”