SIMON GRAYSON has warned Sunderland supporters not to expect Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair to transform the club’s fortunes at a stroke when they return to first-team action in the next few weeks.

Watmore made his first competitive appearance for more than ten months when he played in the opening 45 minutes of the Under-23s’ draw with Manchester City on Saturday, and marked his return with the conversion of an early penalty.

He will not be involved in tomorrow’s Carabao Cup third-round tie with Everton, and is unlikely to feature in Saturday’s Championship game with Cardiff City, but should return to the first-team fold before the next international break.

Loading article content

McNair should also be back in the first-team ranks by then as he has almost completed his own recovery from a cruciate ligament injury, and given their pedigree at both Premier League and international level, Grayson cannot wait to have the duo back in the team.

He is determined not to rush their return though, and will be preaching the need for patience as they ease themselves back into action after almost a year on the sidelines.

“They’re not going to be the saviours that are going to hit the ground running,” warned Grayson, who is set to make a number of changes for tomorrow’s League Cup tie. “They’ve been out for such a long time, and we have to be very careful with our approach.

“That might mean a little more time with the Under-23s, or not starting a first-team game but coming on for ten or 15 minutes. However we need to do it, we’ll be guided by the specialists and physios, along with the fitness coaches too.”

With Lamine Kone having returned to action on Saturday, and Aiden McGeady set to feature in either tomorrow’s game or the weekend visit of Cardiff, Grayson is starting to get some of his absentees back to full fitness.

John O’Shea could also be available at the weekend, and while Lewis Grabban still faces another two or three weeks on the sidelines, Sunderland’s injury problems are finally starting to ease.

The failure to sign a centre-forward on deadline day means they still look short of options up front, but while Grayson has been linked with a possible delve into the free-agent market in an attempt to rectify the problem, he is reluctant to make such a move at this stage.

The likes of Kris Commons, Rickie Lambert, Giuseppe Rossi and Marouane Chamakh are currently without a club, but Grayson would rather focus on the untapped potential in his current squad than chase free agents who could potentially need two or three months of training to get up to speed.

“I’ve not had a conversation with Martin (Bain) yet because we feel the players we’ve got coming back will help us along the way,” said the Sunderland boss. “Duncan is back with the group now, and McNair is making good progress as well.

“You’re talking about international, Premier League players. We’ve had some key players who haven’t been available, but you just have to get on with it and use what you’ve got.”

Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Hull at least stopped a run of four successive defeats, with Sunderland’s performance at the KCOM Stadium going down well with the travelling fans.

Tomorrow’s game at Everton will be a markedly different test, but Grayson is happy with the supporters’ acceptance that their club is going through a difficult period of transition.

“I’ve tried to be as honest as I can, and tried to put together a team that will reflect the supporters,” he said. “They’ve been good. They understand what I’m trying to do, and they’re giving me time to do it.

“Ultimately, results are the major thing, and I’m not daft enough to think everyone thinks I’m doing the right thing. It hurts me whenever I lose games, but I’m confident in my ability and the group of players I’ve got that we’ll go on a run where we will get up the division and challenge.”