Dunc's Back

Sunderland beat Notts County 2-0 in the Checkatrade Trophy and Duncan Watmore made his first team return, so all is good. Watmore was also subbed on 66 minutes suggesting that he’ll be on the bench on Saturday at Accrington. “His rehab path is a really interesting one,” said Jack Ross. “He’s had the two injuries pretty close together, and this time we’ve always worked to the absolute latter end of the timescale for him coming back. We’ve been steadfast in that approach, and I would have continued with that even if we had been struggling for results. There’s a duty of care to him, and as a consequence of that, he’s been training with me for nearly eight weeks now, which is a long time. It’s a really good period, and within that period, he’s done all sorts. That just means he’s looked ready, and that was what he looked like tonight. Other than starting to tighten up after an hour, there was nothing else to suggest he had been out for that time period and that is brilliant for him. The biggest compliment I can pay him is that it looked completely natural for him. All his decision-making looked natural, it didn’t look as though there was any hesitation to anything he did. That’s testament to the work he’s done, but also how patient we’ve all been, him included, to get him back at the right time. It’s another huge step forward for him. He’s pretty much there now, which is fantastic for him first and foremost, but also for us as a club.”

After brushing aside Notts County, we could now face Newcastle’s Under-21s in the last-16. “We’ve always been aware that prize (a place at Wembley) is there, and I think that’s part of the reason why we’ve approached the competition in the way we have,” said Ross. “I would never have done it at the sacrifice of what we want to achieve in the league, but the timing of the games and where we’ve been as a squad has probably worked in our favour. It’s as good as it could be for me, the fact that we’ve continued to progress in the tournament with that prize at stake, while being able to use all our squad within it as well. The players deserve an enormous amount of credit for that. There's been three competitions plus a lot of players that have been used. What I spoke to them before the game about was that none of those players had anything to prove to me. All they had to do is maintain the standards they achieve every day. They're part of a group that does that, that works hard every day, demands of each other and have this desire to keep the run going whoever is playing.”

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