Duncan Watmore made his return from injury this month to devastating effect. We take a look at the young star's prospects in the relegation scrap.
Watmore is full of energy and determination. In the past two games, he could often be seen harassing opposing defenders high up the pitch and chasing what seemed to be lost causes, often with fruitful results. The injury that kept him sidelined for the past two months removed an exciting, creative option from Allardyce's subs bench.
Expectations for the young striker were high before the start of the season. Unfortunately, he showed that he can't keep up his energy for the whole game. He had a run of games around Christmas time when he'd see 90 minutes of action at once, but it was soon obvious to all that he'd be dead on his feet midway through the second half. Allardyce took note, and he seemed to be settling into an accomplished role as an impact sub - he took charge of the game when we were losing at Anfield - but then injury struck.
His return, in the second half against Norwich, was a welcome sight to all in red and white. He took the game to Norwich straight away with his pace and eagerness, and got a deserved reward with his third goal of the season. He had much less time to make an impact last weekend against Arsenal, but still caused a few moments of nerves in a tiring Arsenal defence.
That's where Watmore's real strength lies. The tag of "super-sub" is no longer a thinly veiled insult at a player not capable of lasting a full 90 minutes, but in these days of increased squad rotation, indicates a very valuable player in a manager's armoury. Watmore has a skill, almost unique amongst professional footballers, of being introduced to a match and being able to adapt to the pace of that match straight away. Not only that, but he will seize the game by the scruff of the neck and make something happen.
There is also strength in versatility for the young striker. He is capable of filling any of the forward roles in our team, making him an ideal and realistic option to replace any of our tiring attackers. He can also play as an extra attacker, should the situation demand it. His pace and ability to get around defenders makes him at least worthy of consideration to partner Defoe up front, particularly if we urgently need goals.
Admittedly, Watmore is far from the finished product. He got himself into good positions several times in the past two games, particularly against Norwich, only to take a touch too many or fail to spot players in better positions to shoot. This awareness is something that he will need to work on in order to stand a better chance of becoming a first-team regular in the future, but it is not uncommon for young players to significantly develop this part of their game as part of their coaching. It also stands to reason that, as his training goes on, he will be able to last longer and be more effective throughout the entire 90 minutes.
Looking at the four games to come, all of which are against teams with little to play for - at least in terms of the league table - Watmore should be able to come on later in games and cause havoc amongst tiring defenders. If we can keep him fit and firing, he could prove to be the player who makes the key contributions that keep us in the Premier League.