MARTYN Waghorn has pledged to do everything he can to earn a first-team place at Sunderland rather than go back out on loan to a Championship club.
Waghorn enjoyed a successful season at Leicester City last season and very nearly helped the Foxes win promotion back to the Premier League, as they were beaten by Cardiff City in the semi-finals of the play-offs.
The 20-year-old had implied he would like to stay at Leicester for another year during his time in the Midlands, but a return to Sunderland for pre-season training has left him in no doubt as to where his priorities lie.
Waghorn is one of the most coveted players in the Championship and Steve Bruce has claimed virtually every club in that division has enquired about the possibility of taking him on loan.
But Bruce will not sanction another deal at this stage and Waghorn intends to make the most of the opportunity he has been given at his hometown club.
“I don’t want to go out on loan,” said Waghorn, who has featured in every one of Sunderland’s pre-season friendlies so far this summer. “I’m going to get my head down and I’m going to do everything I can to stay at Sunderland.
“I want to play for this club and I want to play in the Premiership. I’ve got a chance to and it’s up to me. I’m really going to go for it.
“I had a really good time at Leicester, I enjoyed it, but I’m really happy to be back at Sunderland. I’m just pushing to get into the team and hopefully cement a place in the first team squad this season.
“I’ve matured loads as a person
and a player at Leicester. It was definitely what I needed at that stage of my career. I’ve learnt so much from playing regularly.
“I move around the pitch a lot better, so the year was vital for me. I was playing regularly and scoring goals but the aim was always to bring that back with me to Sunderland and try and force my way into the team here.”
Had Nigel Pearson remained as manager at the Walkers Stadium rather than move to Hull City, Waghorn (pictured right) may have been more tempted to return there.
Hull, though, are just one of the clubs who have shown an interest in the striker this summer, but their approach has been rejected.
Whether that changes with the arrival of Danny Welbeck on loan from Manchester United remains to be seen. Sunderland are close to agreeing a deal with Sir Alex Ferguson which will bring the 19-year-old to the North East, although nothing will be confirmed until the Red Devils return from their tour of North America later this week. That will add to the competition for places up front and Waghorn may have to go back out on loan in order to get the regular first-team football he needs at this crucial stage of his development.
For now, though, Bruce is keen to keep him so that he has five strikers challenging each other for a place in the side, competition he hopes will help bring out the best in Kenwyne Jones.
Waghorn said: “It’s nice to have a manager in Steve Bruce who is willing to give the youngsters an opportunity. He isn’t afraid to throw you in there if he thinks you are good enough.
“We saw that last season. It’s nice to know you’ve got the manager’s backing as a young player.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to me now and I’m going to give it my all at Sunderland that’s for sure.
“It’s been a challenge coming back to Sunderland and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve scored a couple of goals in pre-season against Munster and we’ve been over in Portugal working hard and I had three good games.
“I’m part of the squad and hopefully I’ve made a good impression so far.”