SIDELINED winger Duncan Watmore is expected to be back in the fold within the next fortnight.
Hot prospect Watmore suffered a broken fibula in Sunderland Under-21s’ draw against Villareal last month after a run of form which had seen him training with the first-team squad.
Watmore was absent for the U21s’ stalemate against Norwich yesterday, and will almost certainly miss next Monday’s visit of Manchester City, but he is on track to be available by the end of the month.
Development coach Robbie Stockdale told the Echo: “Duncan is running outside at the moment.
“Man City might be a touch early, but he’s on course. He’s a couple of weeks away.”
There has been intense interest in taking Watmore on loan from throughout the Football League, yet Sunderland have been keen to keep the 20-year-old on Wearside to continue his development and monitor him.
However, Sunderland are more prepared to listen to loan offers for some of Watmore’s team-mates in the U21 squad, while there have already been departures in this window.
Centre-half Scott Harrison has joined Hartlepool on a loan deal which is expected to be made permanent, while David Ferguson and Connor Oliver have both joined Championship basement boys Blackpool on 18-month contracts.
Neither of the latter pair got close to the first-team picture at Sunderland, but Oliver has started the last two games for the Tangerines, while Ferguson has been on the bench.
And Stockdale says that while Sunderland’s focus is on producing Premier League players, it is still an achievement to help youngsters have a professional career.
“Two players from the academy in the Championship again,” he added.
“They’re fantastic moves, and another feather in the cap for the players here who get them there and the staff who have worked with them since they’ve been in the building.
“I know Lee Clark thinks highly of them and thinks they can contribute towards them pushing to stay up.
“It’s great news for us.
“I don’t know what the last count was, but a couple of Saturdays ago, we had 40 ex-players playing in the top four leagues in this country.
“It’s very hard to bring players through into the Premier League and the debuts are getting later and later.
“Saying that, we’ve had players on the bench this season and Mika (Mandron) came on against Liverpool, so we’re doing something okay.
“We want to do better and produce more, of course we do, but there’s two players who have been in our academy making good careers for themselves.”