So, Duncan Watmore managed 60 minutes for the U23s last night and looked decent, although he did manage to miss a penalty! Sunderland U23s: Johnstone, Hunter, Young, Mumba, Taylor, Bainbridge, Smart (Diamond, 60), Hackett, Watmore (Nelson, 60), Neil, Kimpioka. He had this to say afterwards: "That is a psychological hurdle," Watmore admitted. "I'd be lying if I said it's not. I've done it once and it is a horrible feeling to have 12 months out of the game. Being injured is so much harder than being fit in terms of the work you put in and psychologically as well. I've experienced that and the last thing I want is for that to happen again. At the same time, I try not to think about it. I try to be as positive as possible because I have done everything I can and I am in a good frame of mind - I don't worry about it happening again or anything like that. I think, second time around, I have to be careful and look after myself. The way I play, I find it hard to hold back - I want to get out there, I want to take people on, and I want to run, so people are going to want to tackle me and I am going to take heavy challenges. I have to try and play my normal game and forget about the past because I have done everything I can in terms of rehab sessions, I've had the best physio, the best surgeon, the best sports scientist - I've had everything to get me back here. Now I have to get on with it and get back in the game. Physically, I felt good in the game. I've done so many rehab sessions now that I feel physically fine, but obviously playing games is a different matter. In terms of the knee and everything, I felt really confident and in a good place. In a strange way the strong challenges were a positive. There were three or four lunges in at me and I was wiped out a couple of times, and that is something you can't really recreate in training, it comes in the intensity of games. The way I play, it's going to happen, so it is something I have to get used to and there was no harm in me getting through that. I feel like I haven't lost any pace, I felt sharp, strong, and I've done loads of work with the guys. I was disappointed to miss the penalty, of course, and in the second half our performance wasn't so good and we ended up losing the game. The gaffer has been fantastic with me, as have all the coaches," he said. "They have been so patient and they have said they have a duty of care to me and they want to make sure I am 100 percent before I come back because I am a young guy and hopefully I have long career ahead of me. The fact that he is like that and is looking after my interests, being patient and not forcing me back, is brilliant and I am really grateful for that. It is all about getting the balance right because I am so excited and I want to be back playing in the first team right now but I have to keep holding myself back and holding myself back because the more patient I am, the better it will be for me and for the team in the long run. I think I can make an impact in this team but at the same time the lads in the team are doing a great job, and all I want is the team to be winning games. If the team is winning and that means I can't get in, so be it! But I will definitely be ready, when required, to try and make an impact. As for the next step, it will depend on how I react after last night's game, and then we will formulate a plan."
In other news, Jack Ross is delighted to have available Max Power for Barnsley tonight, after his dismissal at Walsall was overturned on appeal. "You can very quickly get an unfair reputation. I think Lee Cattermole has suffered from it a bit even this season because I would argue that he gets cautions a bit quicker than some other players would do. But what he has learned to do is manage the situation when he has been given a yellow card, and make sure he doesn't get another one. Max has never been perceived as that type of player but, rightly or wrongly now, people are going to believe he is that type which I think is unfair. He's such a good type. There's not one single bit of me that has ever thought he was a wrong 'un in any way. He's not hot-headed, he's a brilliant professional, he has a bit about him, and he shows a bit of aggression but of course he does in that area of the pitch - you need to. He was quiet on Monday before he heard the result of the appeal, because he knew he was facing five games out which would not be great for him. Also, people are quick to judge. I know that's football, people make up their minds about players for the wrong reasons, so I have to make sure I protect him as much as I can, although I hope people realise I am not doing that for the sake of it. I would only do it if I felt it was justified. I try to take all three red cards in isolation. The card at Bradford, I had absolutely no complaints with and neither did he. That was stupidity, and nobody has got a case for the defence. Oxford - I think that is one of those where he gave the referee a decision to make, but it was a tackle that a lot of midfielders make in their careers. Saturday's was totally different for me, I actually think he tried to pull out of the challenge. It just was not a red card and thankfully it has been overturned on appeal. So he has he been unfortunate? Yes on a couple of them - maybe one-and-a-half, if you like. The only way he could have avoided it on Saturday is if he hadn't gone in for the challenge, and I know some people think he should not have gone in for it and I get that, but it is difficult to say that to a player, especially in that area of the pitch. If he starts playing in that way, what impact does it have on the rest of his game? I feel for him, not because I am soft, but because he is a good character, a brilliant professional, who works incredibly hard. He is in here at 8am doing extra work, he is desperate to do well at this club, for this club, and I think you could see that from his reaction when he got sent off on Saturday - you could see how sick he was."
Meanwhile, Dylan McGeouch is unavailable for the Barnsley after failing to recover from his muscle strain. "Dylan is still unavailable, other than that it's the same squad," Jack Ross said. “He actually did it doing a little bit of extra training last week. A few of the boys came in, it was just one of those things. I had hoped he would be available but he did a little bit on Monday morning and he's still out."
However, Luke O'Nien is pushing for a start. "I mentioned a few weeks ago that Luke has taken time to settle at the club, but that we were starting to see what he will bring to the squad," said Ross. “He’s done that time after time and he did it again on Saturday, and the circumstances of the game were probably made for him because of the energy and drive he brings to the team. I’m pleased because every time he’s done that recently he’s grown in confidence and stature amongst the group, and importantly the group’s belief in him grows all the time as well."
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