Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips has claimed that midfielder Duncan Watmore needs to be playing regular first-team football in order to get his stuttering career back on track.
Watmore was ruled out of the opening months of Sunderland’s League One campaign, but he has not been able to nail down a starting spot since his return to the side as the midfielder has started just six league games for the Black Cats this term.
The 26-year-old has contended with a series of injury problems since he burst on to the scene back in the 2015/16 season, with Watmore having suffered two serious knee injuries during his career to date which have severely hampered his progress.
Watmore is back in contention for Phil Parkinson’s side as they aim to seal promotion this season, but the former Altrincham man has struggled to find his best form and this has seen him fail to make the Sunderland starting line-up since December.
Speaking to Football Insider, Phillips has now suggested that Watmore will need to be playing more regular football at this stage of his career, but the former striker indicated this does not necessarily mean he needs to leave the Stadium of Light.
“He just needs to keep his head down,” Phillips said.
Unfortunately, he has got an injury and he does not look like the same player since coming back. How many times do you see that with players?
“He has not played a lot of football so I am not saying he needs to leave the club because Sunderland need to keep him. But if he is not playing week in week out next season…
“He needs to play regularly to find his form. That will be discussed at the end of the season but if you can get him backfiring it would be like having a new signing again.”
Watmore has made a total of 22 appearances for Sunderland this season, while he has found the net twice and registered three assists during this time.
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Sunderland have certainly been patient with Watmore given the extensive injury problems he has suffered from, but the club must now make a bold decision this summer as they decide whether they want to keep hold of the 26-year-old.
The fact there were such high hopes for Watmore earlier in his career will make it difficult for Sunderland to let go of the midfielder, but the time could now be right for him to move on as he seeks more regular first-team action.
Phillips is correct in that Watmore could almost be like a new signing if he returns to his former best, but there are currently not any signs that this will be the case and the club should be seriously looking at their options during the summer months.