George Honeyman has admitted that his prolonged wait for a spot in the Sunderland first team was a mental challenge.
The 22-year-old had to watch on as he just failed to break into the squad, even as the Black Cats went through one of their worst run of injuries in recent memory.
Didier Ndong’s departure for the African Cup of Nations finally saw the midfielder get his chance and he has said he has not overcome his biggest hurdle, proving to himself that he can cut in the Premier League.
Honeyman said: “Coming into the season, I signed a new contract at the end of last summer and I thought, right, OK, I’m going to get opportunities, maybe in the cup. When that didn’t happen it was really mentally tough.
“I was virtually 19th man on every squad and it was mentally draining going to every away game and being the one in the stands. Everyone was saying, ‘You’ve got to stick with it, you’re training really well and it will happen.’
“I played a couple of games and I thought I did all right but once you get into that team you just want to keep going at it.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I can do it. You never quite know how you’re going to feel when you play and then when I was chucked in against West Brom, I thought now is the time to show people I can handle it. Afterwards I felt good in myself if not in the result, because I thought now I know I can do it, I’m just desperate to play some more games.”
Honeyman has also earned the trust of manager David Moyes, winning praise after a number of his appearances. Honeyman says that has been a big boost:
“The manager’s been good to me all season. I’ve been part of the squad and he’s been really happy with how I’ve played when I’ve played. Hearing that from a manager, there’s nothing better, really. I think I’ve gained his trust really, which is the biggest thing for any young player.