Played For Both Sides – The Return of Watmore and More

Stephen Kennedy takes a look at two players to have worn the red and white of Sunderland and the blue of Millwall

Well, that was a nice, not at all maddening end to a transfer window, wasn’t it? A lovely bit of satire for all Sunderland fans to enjoy by signing precisely zero strikers at a time when most of the country went on strike.

What better opposition to take on when you have no fit strikers over 5ft8 than Millwall? Stagger on, lads, stagger on.

Duncan Watmore

The story of Duncan Watmore is one of many ups and downs. From starting out in the Man Utd academy in the mid 00s, to moving to non-league Altrincham, taking in loans at Clitheroe and Curzon Ashton, Watmore was signed by then Premier League Sunderland in May 2013 as a 19 year old.

The winger/forward (still not really sure) embarked on that classic youth team path of tearing up the Under 21s and having the majority of the fanbase clamour for his inclusion in the first team as we went on our customary circling of the Premier League drain. A brief loan spell at SPL side Hibs in January 2014 and winning the U21 Premier League Player of the Season award in 2015 bolstered his reputation amongst fans desperate to see a player with pace thrown into the first team.

Watmore’s league debut finally came in August 2015 as a sub against Norwich City and he even managed to bag a goal in the process – naturally though, it was a consolation as we were beaten 3-1, grim.

An ankle injury kept Watmore out for two months during his breakthrough season, but he returned to the side in April, again coming off the bench and again scoring…again versus Norwich, this time in a 3-0 win under Sam Allardyce (you may remember that win as being particularly hilarious due to Norwich trying to drum up an atmosphere with around 400 inflatable canaries).

Sunderland survived under Allardyce, but if there was anyone who had a worse time than your average fan the following season under David Moyes at that time, it was Watmore. No goals in 17 games, in and out of the starting line up, things took a turn on 3rdDecember 2016 when Watmore knackered his cruciate ligament against Leicester, an injury that would keep him away from the first team until 30thSeptember that year. The comeback for Duncan lasted barely six weeks when, after making only his fourth start since returning, he suffered a repeat of the cruciate injury against the club he’s just signed for, Millwall.

We didn’t see Watmore again until he surprisingly started a Pizza Cup game against Notts County in December 2018. Eased back into the team with a little more care by Jack Ross, Watmore looked to be steadily finding his feet, scoring his first league goal in almost 2 years against Wycombe in a feisty encounter in Buckinghamshire. Naturally, after scoring a 90th minute equaliser, he was steamrollered by Marcus Bean, who was promptly sent off, and Watmore’s season was done again by March.

The 19/20 season seemed to be a less dramatic one for Watmore, with a fairly steady run of appearances and no major injury concerns, he even scored one of the 5 in Phil Parkinson’s hilarious 5-0 demolition of Tranmere. But form and a regular starting berth just wouldn’t go hand in hand for Watmore, in truth, while his effort was never in doubt, the player looked jaded and scarred by the trauma that was his time in red and white. His final appearance for Sunderland came in February 2020, in a 1-1 draw against Fleetwood which thoroughly spoiled Joey Barton’s night.

Watmore was released by Sunderland in June 2020, ending a 7 year period which started as a Premier League and England U21 prospect, culminating as a bit part player in the third division. The redemption story began for Duncan in November of 2020, where he signed for Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough, back up in the Championship, initially on a short deal.

To say Watmore took his opportunity with gusto would be underplaying it a tad; on only his third outing, he bagged a winning brace against Swansea, and followed that up with another two goals against Millwall three games later. By the end of his short term contract, Watmore had scored 5 goals in 8 games, and finished the season with 9 in 30.

Now a regular in the Boro side that so frequently threatens to bother the playoffs, Watmore continued his decent form into the following two seasons, nabbing a further 7 goals in 21/22 and was already on 5 in 23 for Boro this year before leaving on January 31st (his penultimate appearance coming off the bench at the Stadium of Light earlier in the month).

Watmore’s new home is Millwall, for whom he can make his debut against Sunderland this Saturday, so while we all wish nothing but the best for a player who seemed to genuinely care about our League One plight, we hope he has a truly sad time this weekend.

Joined Left League Apps League Goals
Sunderland 2013 2020 71 5
Millwall 2023 Present 0 0

Anton Rogan

We’re in yer da territory now, as we go back to the 90s. Anton Rogan was a Northern Irish international full back who had carved out a solid reputation for himself as a regular in the Celtic squad of the late 80s, so when he moved down to Sunderland in 1991, he looked to be another assured signing made by manager Denis Smith.

Solid if unspectacular, Rogan held down the left back position for 18 months, which included the 1992 FA Cup final, before the emergence of the likes of Micky Gray saw his opportunities start to dwindle, which were then fully snuffed out by a broken leg in an awful 5-2 thumping away to Peterbrough.

Rogan was sold to Oxford in the summer of 1993 for £250k staying for 2 years before heading to Millwall, then managed by his old Celtic teammate, Mick McCarthy. An unexpectedly prolific goalscoring record of 8 in 36 games will mean he’s likely remembered fondly from his time in London, but his career took an unfortunate nosedive upon leaving for Blackpool in 1997. On just his second appearance, Rogan broke his leg which put paid to his season.

Upon his return in August of 1998, another major injury meant he wouldn’t be seen again until January 1999. Finally, he was able to string together 13 games, with only minor niggles on the way, but the damage was done and Rogan retired at the end of the 98/99 season.

Joined Left League Apps League Goals
Sunderland 1991 1993 46 1
Millwall 1995 1997 38 8