SIMON GRAYSON is ready to unleash Duncan Watmore from the start of this afternoon’s game with QPR, and the Sunderland boss is considering playing the youngster as a central striker in order to enhance his side’s attacking threat.

Watmore has not started a senior game for the Black Cats for more than ten months, having damaged his cruciate knee ligaments last December. He eased himself back into action with a couple of appearances for the Under-23s, and immediately caught the eye as he came off the substitutes’ bench in the second half of last month’s 2-2 draw with Preston.

Since featuring at Deepdale, he has spent the international break building up his fitness, and with Sunderland desperately in need of a boost as they look to end a ten-month wait for a home win, his return to the starting line-up will provide a welcome lift.

He has spent most of his Sunderland career playing on the wing, and filled a wide position on his return at Preston, but he is also capable of playing as the main centre-forward or in the hole behind a target-man such as James Vaughan.

Sunderland have hardly been prolific scorers this season, and with Lewis Grabban set to be out for at least another couple of weeks, Watmore could find himself shuffled infield as he looks to kick-start his career after a lengthy lay-off.

“When you’ve got someone like Duncan, he’s a versatile player, so we can play him off the sides or we can play him down the middle,” said Grayson. “It’s just nice to have him back because of his pure energy, his pace, his enthusiasm which will rub off on other players as well.

“Is it the right time to play him on Saturday? We’ll have to wait and see, but he’s making good progress in his recovery from long-term injury.”

Grayson has been welcoming back Sunderland’s international players in dribs and drabs over the last few days, with some of the club’s overseas contingent having experienced mixed fortunes.

Bryan Oviedo was the big winner, with his Costa Rica side having qualified for the World Cup finals, while John O’Shea and Aiden McGeady will have been thrilled with the Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 victory over Wales that secured a play-off place.

Jonny Williams was a substitute in that game, and it is safe to assume the midfielder was rather more downbeat in the wake of events in Cardiff.

“There are mixed emotions,” said Grayson. “The Irish boys are happy, the Welsh camp not too happy, and Bryan qualifying with Costa Rica will be delighted.

“Congratulations to all those lads. The Irish lads are not gloating too much because they’ve still got to get through the play-offs, but it’s nice for them to come back in positive spirits.”