Duncan Watmore is the embodiment of what every young and aspiring English player should be. At a time when chances for youngsters at top flight clubs is at an all time low - unless of course one of the big four have spent a fortune to bring you into their side - breaking through to the first team picture in 2015 is as difficult as it ever has been.
Despite the obvious road blocks, Duncan Watmore has broken down each and every one of them to the point where he cannot no longer be ignored by Sunderland's top brass. No other player in that squad garners more respect from me than him, because he epitomises just about everything I want to see in a Sunderland player - hunger, ambition, loyalty, quality, and enthusiasm.
Don't get me wrong, it's nice when you sign players like Asamoah Gyan, or Darren Bent - it's nice seeing Sunderland throw money at a big name, because above all else it shows ambition and shows us as fans that the club are committed to investing in something that works. Inevitably though it never seems to end well for us when it comes to big name buys and I think I'm at the point as a fan where every time a big money signing is linked to the club I question the motives of the player in question for joining a traditionally under-achieving club like Sunderland. Really, at the core of it, why did Asamoah Gyan come here? For money? It's pretty obvious why, really. We let ourselves be fooled by players who pretend they give a shit when in truth as soon as a better offer comes around they're away like a shot. Loyalty in football in virtually non-existent.
Don't get me wrong, I love Yann M'Vila, but when I saw him beating his fist against his badge in front of the South stand on Saturday at full time I, for a second, allowed myself to get lost in the moment, before realising that I probably shouldn't as I've seen it all before.
That's not to say Yann M'Vila isn't loving his time here, as he probably is. Having gone from complete expulsion in the far colder climes of Russia he's now the top dog at an ailing Premier League side with a fan base that show him immense love. Upon his signing in the summer we were warned of attitude problems and told to expect the complete opposite to what we've actually gotten, which is a top class midfielder that even when we've been getting hammered off shite teams he's been the best player on the pitch week in, week out. You have to credit him for that.
Yet, despite that, I can't allow myself to be sucked in. Beating your chest is one thing, but come the summer when far better clubs come calling, will he still be here? At this moment in time I honestly cannot answer that one way or the other.
That is why I feel I'm a bit of a hypocrite in saying that I never for one second expected Duncan Watmore to do the dirty on us and refuse to sign a new contract. The club were loyal to him at a time when he was playing non-league football and showed a commitment to him by spending big money on him despite him being raw and unproven and, in turn, he's committed his long term future to the club by signing a new contract. Not for one single second did I expect he wouldn't do it, such is the character of a young man that is clearly such a brilliant human being. His parents must be so proud, watching him score Premier League goals alongside achieving a first-class honours degree in economics.
These are the types of footballers you want in your club and coming through the academy. So many past and present have shown promise as youngsters before falling at the wayside.
I'd be lying if the success of Watmore on the afternoon was not paralleled with a tinge of sadness as I listened to radio Newcastle on the drive home from the game. Having listened to callers ring in in their droves to talk about the brilliance of Watmore the conversation soon turned to the exploits of another former youth stand out, Ryan Noble, who had scored a hattrick for Northern League side Seaham Red Star in their game away to Ashington. Lets not forget that Noble, then aged eighteen, made his Sunderland first team debut in 2010 having far outshone just about everyone at reserve level with his goalscoring exploits, thus making him impossible to ignore. Yet, unlike Watmore, Noble's questionable attitude and application have seen him fall from the first team at Burnley at the beginning of 2014 to the Northern League by the end of 2015. He's still just twenty-four years of age and if he really wants it he can force his way back up the leagues, but it's a tough old slog and each and every single Sunderland fan must bash their heads knowing they'd die for the opportunities that the likes of Noble have had in football.
Every single young player from U7's up to the U21's squad must look at the meteoric rise Watmore has made through the ranks at Sunderland and understand just what is needed in order for them to get noticed and succeed at this club. We know that the club's record for promoting players is appalling when you consider what the cost must be to fund the Academy of Light. That is not something the club can hide from and, whilst I believe the club and Robbie Stockdale in particular deserve immense credit for nurturing and developing Watmore into the fantastic young man that he is, you cannot look past anyone but Watmore himself for getting himself noticed. He's made it absolutely impossible for the likes of Advocaat and Allardyce to ignore him, thus earning a chance in our side and above all else giving himself a fantastic opportunity now to have a successful career as a top flight footballer.
For now, I'm going to enjoy every single moment that Watmore steps on the pitch. He might not be the biggest, or the strongest, or the most technical, but what he does have is ambition, drive; he has heart and guile and enthusiasm in abundance and having suffered for the majority of the early stages of this season and last watching players that look like they'd rather be anywhere but here it's an absolute dream as a Sunderland fan to watch a player who wants nothing more than to play for this club.