Man-of-the-moment Duncan Watmore insists he has a “long, long way to go” before he matures into a more polished Premier League performer.
Watmore’s rise has been one of the big positives for Sunderland this season, yet the last eight days in particular have seen the 21-year-old thrust into the limelight.
You can’t expect it to get any easier. It’s only going to get harder, so I have to learn to adapt.Duncan Watmore
The England Under-21 international rubber-stamped a new four-year contract at the Stadium of Light, before making a positive impact on Sunderland’s win at Crystal Palace last Monday night and then produced a man of the match contribution from the bench in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Stoke City.
But Watmore – who sealed Sunderland’s win over the Potters with the Black Cats’ second goal – is staying grounded over his meteoric progress, despite quickly becoming the new favourite on the terraces.
Watmore told the Echo: “I’ve got a long, long way to go and I know that.
“You can’t expect it to get any easier.
“It’s only going to get harder, so I have to learn to adapt.
“The only way I can do that is keep playing, keep practising and take it in my stride.
“It was an easy decision for me to sign the new contract.
“This club has been fantastic with me ever since I arrived two-and-a-half years ago.
“The passion the fans have, the staff, the players, everyone has been unbelievable.
“And when you get that reception at the Stadium of Light from those fans, that explains why I signed for four years, because of them.”
When Jermain Defoe suffered a hamstring injury on the half-hour mark, Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce turned to Watmore to replace the England international, despite big-money captures Jeremain Lens, Fabio Borini and Adam Johnson all occupying placeS on the bench.
But Allardyce’s faith was justified as Watmore persistently put the Stoke defence on the back foot, before netting his second Premier League goal just two minutes after Patrick van Aanholt’s 82nd-minute opener.
“The manager has been great with me since he came in,” he said.
“For him to show that confidence and faith in me, I’m very, very grateful for it.
“The only way I can pay it back is by playing well and scoring goals.
“Thankfully I did that on Saturday and we got a win.
“Hopefully I’ll keep getting more opportunities.
“I’m glad I could make an impact and I felt good when I came on.”
It was Watmore’s run which saw Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross bring down the forward to earn a second yellow card early in the second half and change the complexion of a tightly-poised encounter.
Sunderland eventually profited from that man advantage to secure back-to-back wins for the first time this season and move out of the relegation zone after a three-and-a-half month stint in the bottom three.
Watmore added: “It’s massively important psychologically.
“Back-to-back wins in this league is crucial.
“But we’re not going to get complacent. We’ve got to keep climbing that table and get safe as quickly as possible.
“We’ve got to get as many as results as we can, because we’re still right down there. We’re not out of it.
“The sending-off did change the game. They went into a more rigid system and we had to adapt.
“For 20 minutes or so, it took us a while to get into that.
“But, thankfully, persistence got us two goals and three points.”