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Hopefully the announcement of England’s controversial squad for the friendly against the United States of America raised a smile on Duncan Watmore’s face.

There have probably not been many in 2018.

Watmore is a famously intelligent footballer, but the year he has had must have tested even his positivity.

Twelve months ago next week, Watmore was feeling his way back into Sunderland’s first team. He hit the ground running in his comeback game, at Preston North End in September, and by November he was looking to impress a new manager in Chris Coleman. The Welshman was not in the crowd because he was switching on the Newport Christmas lights but his trusted assistant, Kit Symons, was watching on to report back what talent was available to the new boss.

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Then, in the first half, Watmore went down injured. You could instantly tell it was serious. He had damaged his cruciate knee ligaments for the second time in a year.

A serious injury can be soul-destroying for a professional sportsman.

Watmore was lucky the first time – if lucky is the word – in that Paddy McNair picked up a similar injury a week earlier, giving him company as he went through the soul-destroying slog that is rehabilitation. This time around he has been on his own.

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The end is in sight. Watmore

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