Carl Winchester has vowed to return to pre-season, ready to give it his all as he hopes to secure a spot with Sunderland next season. When the 29-year-old signed at the Stadium of Light, he didn’t hide his pride at appearing in a red and white jersey.
Now he hopes to play at the highest level of his career next season after promotion to the championship. Winchester missed the play-offs with a groin injury sustained just ten minutes after Sunderland’s 5-1 win over Cambridge United.
He admits the play-off final against Wycombe came too early but was delighted with the result. “I’ve been training and I think it was a bit early,” said Winchester. “I thought I was out a lot longer, but I recovered faster. I’m just buzzing, absolutely buzzing that the guys got it over the line.
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“I’m happy for everyone. It’s been a long season of ups and downs but look the guys dug in and I’m just glad they got over the line in the end. I said at the beginning that I would do anything to promote this club, I am disappointed that I was eliminated from the play-offs. I’ve played a big role this season, which I’m happy about.
“Hopefully that’s the goal [To play in the Championship next season]. Coming back in preseason, working hard and seeing if I can get on the team. I’m going to take my socks off like I did this season.”
Winchester has had a bit of bad luck when it comes to his short tenure at the club. He was unable to play in the Papa John’s Trophy final last season due to a cup tie and missed this season through injury.
“It’s hard not to misunderstand me,” he said. “The highs take care of themselves and when you’re down in those lows you just have to manage them. Look I always believed in the squad we had that we were capable of moving up from this league guys dug in and showed it.
“”The fans were incredible today. How good were they? I just sat there, soaking up the atmosphere and just thinking, ‘Wow, wow.’ I know they’re amazing at home, but I haven’t experienced that today.
“Every Sunderland fan who was there or at home today, I’m proud of each and every one of you. They’ve been there all season and traveled and that was for them. credit to them all.”
Alex Neil faces some tough decisions ahead of next season with a squad reshuffle on the horizon but the Northern Ireland international has been a firm fan favorite since arriving from Forest Green. Winchester was full of praise for the impact he’d had since arriving at the Stadium of Light.
He said: “He’s brilliant [Neil]. He walked in and was brilliant with everyone so he did. He’s one of those managers who brings out the best in people, knew what we had to do and dealt with him fairly. Everyone on the team said the same thing about him, he’s top notch.
“They are both great managers. Lee Johnson, I have the utmost respect for him. He brought me to this club from Forest Green and gave me my chance. I have absolute respect for him and I think he’s a great manager too.
“Alex Neil is the same. They are different in their ways, but I don’t have a bad word to say about them. They are both great managers and Alex Neil was brilliant.”