Sunderland coach on managing Duncan Watmore's return and when Josh Maja could be back

Duncan Watmore in action for Sunderland.
Duncan Watmore in action for Sunderland.
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Sunderland will continue to carefully manage Duncan Watmore’s return as he builds his fitness.

The forward made his first appearance in nine months from the subs bench in the Championship draw with Preston North End at the weekend.

The 23-year-old wasn’t involved in the Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Doncaster Rovers last night and first team coach Robbie Stockdale explained Watmore’s return to playing 90 minutes is a steady progression.

A decision was taken that he would miss the Doncaster game and would instead benefit more from training this week.

Watmore could play in an in-house training game at the Academy of Light later this week as he continues to build his fitness.

When asked whether Watmore was in contention to face Doncaster, Stockdale said: "He obviously played in the game at Preston and we decided this game he could give a miss.

"We have an in-house game later in the week, which we can dictate how long he plays.

"We still have to be mindful that he has had a major injury and a long lay-off. We are still being choosy with the games he plays in.

"It might have helped if we had him against Doncaster but ultimately his rehab, his return to playing 90 minutes, is a steady progression.

"There are no niggles, we just thought it was best for him to have a solid week’s training as we can control it."

Meanwhile, Stockdale confirmed that striker Josh Maja is back running at the Academy of Light.

Sunderland Under-23s have a game against Hertha Berlin next week which he could feature in.

Stockdale added: "Josh is running. He is dropping into little bits of training, whether he is right for the Hertha Berlin game will be touch and go."