After an intense week of training in Austria, Sunderland star Duncan Watmore is keen to get back to playing football. The 22-year-old is set to start at Victoria Park on Wednesday night, where the Black Cats will take on Hartlepool United in their first game of pre-season.
The game against Hartlepool will be seen as a small step to important preparation for the start of the new Premier League season. Sunderland are still yet to secure their first signing of the summer and with manager Sam Allardyce favourite for the England managerial vacancy, everything is slightly unsettled on Wearside.
After last season’s poor pre-season tour of America, the club will be pleased with their more organised and better prepared build up to the new campaign. The first phase was a tour of Austria, where Watmore and co spent the week regaining fitness and preparing physically. The next week will see the Black Cats play two friendlies against lower league English sides; Hartlepool and Rotherham United, followed by matches overseas, then the first game of the 2016/17 season against away to Manchester City on August 13.
Watmore, who played over sixty percent of last season’s games, said he cannot wait in a recent interview with the Chronicle: “It’s always nice to play games, you can do as much running as you want but match fitness is something completely different, but our sessions have been aimed at getting ready for that.” The England under-21 international has insisted his side will be ‘raring to go’ by the end of pre-season.
Black Cats frustration
The Sunderland team can be very much raring to go, but their managerial problem will still remain until the FA make a decision on who to appoint. Allardyce flew back early from his side’s Austrian training camp to speak to the FA, but with as many as three candidates still to interview for the England job, the Black Cats frustration will continue.
The FA had made clear after the sacking of Roy Hodgson that they would want to appoint Allardyce as the national team manager, which leaves Sunderland unable to put pressure on them. The longer the issue goes on, the more likely it is that Sunderland will be left behind by other clubs. The most annoying aspect for Sunderland fans is that Allardyce insisted his side has to start better than they have in past campaigns and now ironically, he could play a big part in the Black Cats downfall.
The importance of playing a variety of teams in pre-season
Watmore praised the club for organising pre-season friendlies with mass variety: “We’re playing different teams in different countries and the final game against Borussia Dortmund will be a great test." He added, "But some of the lower league teams in England will also provide a test because they’re always well prepared and well up for it.”
Sunderland will look to build momentum and confidence throughout their pre-season games and Watmore will want to cement a starting place in the side.