We don't have a habit of bringing youth players through to the first team. It's not, unfortunately, the Sunderland way. So when Duncan Watmore signed from non-league Altrincham in 2013, there was some quiet hopefulness from those behind the scenes that we'd secured a hidden gem. From the evidence shown to date it looks as though we could have bagged a diamond.
Of course there are rough edges, sure there are areas within his game he needs to improve upon but not since Jordan Henderson have we witnessed a youth player with, the potential at least, to become a real Premier League talent. It doesn't feel like hype to speak of him in those terms, which is very much to his credit. Speaking recently on his rapid rise he had this to say:
"It would have been arrogant of me to come from non-league thinking I would get straight in to Premier League, I didn't think that. I knew I had to improve a lot."
The Manchester youngster has also, over a short period, shown us his versatility too. While preferring to play on the wings where he can better utilise his pace, Watmore has also been deployed through the middle at times. In fact he changed the game for the better in that role during this season's Capital One Cup tie against Exeter City. His skill and direct approach were clearly just far too much for the League Two side. Exeter had proved to be a thorn in the Black Cat's side prior to his arrival on the pitch.
"My personal development has come on a lot, and the coaches have put the effort in to get me there. It was a shock when I first came to the club. You should never think you should be there on merit but you should believe you can get there. I still need a lot of work to get there and cement a place, but hopefully I will get there if I continue on this path."
It's clear that Watmore is having the time of his life and not only is he improving his game, he's also spent time earning a first class honours degree in economics demonstrating just how level headed the lad is.
Perhaps his development to date has been helped by navigating a route to Sunderland via Altrincham, Clitheroe and Hibernian. This road will have shown the young starlet, if it was ever needed just what real life is all about.
We also can't ignore his international appearances. He was awarded player of the Toulon Tournament this summer where he turned out for the England U20 side. More recently he has gained his first England U21 cap, which surely won't be the last.
However with notable performances comes the expectation of the Sunderland faithful. Without wanting to put undue pressure on the player the next stage of his development needs to be played out under the bright lights of the Premier League. With the arrival of Fabio Borini, Jeremain Lens et al it will be difficult to solidify a place in the starting eleven.
Dick Advocaat now has the important task of nurturing and fine-tuning the player's undoubted abilities to ensure he is fit for purpose during the Premier League season. Perhaps when the inevitable injuries begin to pile up around December/January time we may just see Watmore get an extended run in the side.
All eyes are now firmly transfixed on Duncan Watmore. We want more!