Duncan Watmore feels he has lost none of his pace during his long injury lay-off, but admits playing with former team-mate Jermain Defoe has left him yearning to get back to working on his end product.
The 23-year-old was almost on the scoresheet for Sunderland U23s against Hertha Berlin on Tuesday night, narrowly denied on a number of occasions.
He will be in contention to play against QPR in the Championship on Saturday and has identified adding goals to his game as a key area for improvement in the coming months.
He said: “I feel like I’ve still got my pace and my energy, I do feel that, and that’s the main asset of my game.
“What I’d love to improve on is end product. It’s always something that maybe hasn’t come naturally – I get in good positions and create chances, but having someone like (Jermain) Defoe in your team, he’s so clinical, you can pick up things and learn from him.
“It’s something that I want to improve on.
“The only way I can do that is to keep practising, doing extra training sessions and finishing practice.
“Now I’m fit, I can do that, so, hopefully over the next couple of years, I can really do that. That’s where I’d like to see my game improve.
“He (Defoe) was probably the main guy I’d watch in training and playing because he’s so clinical.
“It’s natural, it’s just instinct for him. They say some people are born with it and he clearly was, even though he worked really hard for it as well. He’s got that clinical edge to his finishing and the stats speak for themselves.
“Having him here for the length of time he was, it was very good for someone in my position.
“If I do play striker, I will need to improve my finishing, but every player has stuff to improve on and the only way to do it is to keep practising, keep getting in the positions. As long as I work hard and do that, I’ll be happy.
Improving that element of his game could also allow him to continue the development of his game as a central striker.
Watmore, who admits that is his favoured position, has mostly been used as a winger during his time in the first XI, but he has returned in a central and prominent role.
He said: “I’ve always felt playing striker’s my best position because I’ve done it my whole life and I like running in behind – I think that suits my game best.
“A lot of the games I played in my first year or two with Sunderland were on the wing and I’m happy to do that as well.
“Even though I see myself probably better as a striker if I’m playing, I’m playing – I don’t mind where.
“I feel like I can hopefully make a difference with that threat in behind, but we’ve got loads of players who are every talented going forward and it’s very tricky to nail down a starting place.”