PROSPECT Duncan Watmore will have the chance to catch Gus Poyet’s eye in pre-season after joining the first-team squad on the training field.
Watmore made big strides in his maiden campaign on Wearside last season after arriving from Blue Square North side Altrincham 12 months ago.
The winger was the stand-out member of the Under-21 squad and he was rewarded with a first-team debut in the FA Cup third round before gaining valuable experience north of the border with relegated Hibernian during the second half of the season.
Poyet is keen to take a closer look at Watmore and he has been training with the rest of the first-team squad at the Academy of Light this week.
That is expected to remain the case for the rest of pre-season, with the 20-year-old likely to be part of Sunderland’s week-long trip to Portugal at the end of the month.
It’s an opportunity for Watmore, along with fellow young arrivals from last summer – El-Hadji Ba and Charis Mavrias, to move further up the pecking order after being limited to the fringes of the first-team squad last season.
Head coach Poyet certainly rates Watmore as one of the brightest prospects at the club and told the Echo earlier in the year that he was hoping to see further development from his time in the SPL.
“He’s impressed me because of where he’s come from and where he’s playing. To have an opportunity to go to Hibernian is massive, and we couldn’t let it pass,” said Poyet.
Another of Sunderland’s U21 squad who could get a chance in pre-season is left-back Tom Robson, who penned a new two-year deal at the end of last season.
Robson was a target for Fulham after a series of impressive performances for the U21s, yet ultimately agreed a contract to remain at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland remain without a recognised left-back on the books, with the Black Cats yet to find any success in their pursuit of last season’s loanee Marcos Alonso.
Meanwhile, Poyet is hopeful that Jozy Altidore will be fit to immediately start training when he returns to Sunderland at the end of next week.
Altidore was given an extra fortnight off after his World Cup commitments for the USA and that has allowed him the chance to recover from the hamstring strain which blighted his tournament.
“I am sure, if nothing goes wrong, that when Jozy is back with us for pre-season, he is going to be fit to start training without any problems,” Poyet told the club website.