Sunderland legend Kevin Phillips has claimed that the club will be “pulling their hair out” after former Black Cats winger Duncan Watmore has been linked with a move to the Premier League.
The North East club released Watmore in the summer but after joining local rivals Middlesbrough as a free agent in November he has impressed in the Championship – scoring five times and providing an assist in his eight appearances.
Such have been the quality of the 26-year-old’s performances that he’s been linked with a string of clubs in January, including Premier League sides Burnley and West Bromwich Albion.
Speaking to Football Insider, Phillips – who scored more than 100 goals for the Black Cats – has shared his thoughts on the situation and suggested that the club will be kicking themselves.
He said: “I am sure there will be real mixed emotions from Sunderland fans, there is for myself.
“He struggled so badly with injury, he could not get that form back but sometimes a player just needs different scenery. The fresh challenge seems to have done him the world of good.
“He has been given a new lease of life at Middlesbrough. We all knew he had talent and quality and now he is coupling that with goals.
“To be linked with Premier League sides and Championship sides, naturally, the board will be pulling their hair out. They knew he had the potential but they could not get it out of him.
“Full credit to the player for leaving and responding to the fresh challenge. A real shame but fair play to Watmore. He has shown real character because it is tough to come back from those injuries.”
A product of Sunderland’s academy system, Watmore made his debut in 2013/14 when they were still a Premier League club.
The winger remained at the Stadium of Light as the Black Cats dropped down to League One, featuring for them in all of England’s top three tiers, but injuries restricted him from playing to his potential on a regular basis.
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Phillips makes a really good point here.
Watmore seems to still be a popular figure among the Stadium of Light faithful despite joining the Teessiders but it will surely be painful for them if he secures a Premier League move.
After such a bright start, injury issues plagued much of the winger’s time with the Black Cats and it seems a fresh start and a clean bill of health was just what he needed.
It’s hard to criticise Sunderland over how they dealt with the situation but they may be wishing things had gone differently.