Duncan Watmore's fitness issues mean Middlesbrough have to 'monitor and modify' his involvement

duncan watmore's fitness issues mean middlesbrough have to 'monitor and modify' his involvement

Duncan Watmore warms up

Chris Wilder admits Duncan Watmore sometimes has to be treated differently in terms of his workload because of his past injury troubles, but heaped praise on the Middlesbrough forward for how hard he works in spite of the issues.

Watmore has had the issues since suffering two career-threatening ACL knee injuries while at previous club Sunderland. The first came when Sunderland were still in the Premier League and Watmore was still one of the brightest young prospects in the top flight. Taking away almost a year of his career, he managed just six games on his first return before it popped again.

In total it would be almost three years before he managed to build himself to a position to play regularly again, but conceded in an interview with Teesside Live last year that it is still something he has to manage. “It’s just part of my life now,” Watmore said at the time. “When I’m playing a lot it’s something I need to do.

“I’m playing as much as I can, but sometimes I can’t and my body will tell me that because of everything I’ve been through. My knee does react. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t.”

The issue has been back under the microscope at the start of the season, with Boro still pushing hard for new striker recruits and Wilder dealing with Watmore’s conditioning issues, while Chuba Akpom and Marcus Forss are still building their match-sharpness after reduced pre-seasons.

Boro are close to sealing a deal for American striker Matthew Hoppe to join from RCD Mallorca. All is agreed with the Spanish club and the player, and he was pictured in Yarm on Tuesday as he awaits a work permit to complete the move. But when asked about Watmore’s issues, Wilder was keen to praise the hard-working forward.

The Boro boss said: “We have to monitor and modify because of the unfortunate situation that he was in a few years ago. This happens to players but Dunc’s attitude towards it is great. His work ethic is fabulous but now and again we have to pull him out and modify him and maybe treat him in a little bit of a different way.

“If look at the group now, he is a senior striker out there. You’ve got Chuba, Duncan, and Forss coming into the football club. If you look at the three players that we have got at the top of the pitch, Duncan is by far and away the most experienced one.”

While Boro continue to protect Watmore as much as possible, appreciating the impact he can have in games when in top form, the hope now is to build the conditioning of Akpom and Forss, as well as any others who arrive between now and the end of the transfer window, to offer more support for the 28-year-old.

Until Hoppe’s deal is concluded, Forss remains the only striker they’ve managed to acquire so far this summer, with hard work ongoing to add to that group. Forss has made a positive start though, netting a goal at QPR on Saturday in what was his full debut.

Wilder said of the recruit from Brentford: “I was delighted for him to get his first goal on Saturday. I thought it was a bright second-half performance as well when we were on top. When we were on top, he was lively, sharp and bright and getting the goal won’t have done him any harm.

“It’s not that pill you can take where he becomes a 90-minute player. It’s just about the work that we put into him and the attitude towards it. Sooner than later, he will get up to speed. He will be involved on Wednesday night so more minutes into him which will be good.”

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