Ross Stewart is edging closer to making his comeback from injury but faces a challenging test against Southampton following his switch from Sunderland. The former Black Cats striker, whose transfer was deemed beneficial for all parties involved, is making progress in his recovery. He suffered a significant Achilles injury during Sunderland’s FA Cup match against Fulham back in January and has been sidelined since.
As he enters the final year of his contract, Sunderland opted to transfer Stewart to their Championship counterpart, Southampton, with the hope of securing promotion to the Premier League. While Stewart watched from the sidelines, Sunderland dominated their clash with the Saints, winning 5-0.
Russell Martin’s team has encountered issues with consistency this season, and Stewart’s return is expected to provide much-needed stability to the Saints’ lineup. To secure a spot in Martin’s starting eleven, the Scottish striker will need to demonstrate his capabilities, which he is likely to do without much difficulty.
Hampshire Live’s Southampton FC reporter, Mark Wyatt, shared insights with Chronicle Live regarding Stewart’s potential return date, how the Saints perceive his arrival, and the role he may play at St. Mary’s.
How was his move received by supporters?
Mark Wyatt: “Saints fans were really pleased to get this signing done. The club haven’t made a habit of signing centre-forwards in recent years and the arrival of Paul Onuachu from Genk in January was a failure for all parties.
“Stewart on the other hand has, unlike Onuachu, bags of experience at this level and an excellent record in front of goal.”
How far away is he from returning?
MW: “Russell Martin hasn’t put a date on his return to action but Stewart has been back in training over the last few weeks. With the October international break now giving Saints a break before their next game away at Hull on October 21, fans are hoping the striker could make his debut off the bench.
“Still, Saints won’t want to rush his return.”
What did Martin have to say about the move?
MW: “Martin has mentioned Stewart’s character and what he brings to the dressing room off the pitch several times already, while also saying he felt it was a move that benefitted everybody. It seems like the Saints boss is very much looking forward to what Stewart can bring to the team once he is fit and firing.”
How big of a battle does he have on his hands to get into the side once fit?
MW: “Stewart shouldn’t have too many problems getting his chance in the Southampton team as it hasn’t been too settled this season. Russell Martin has tinkered with his team trying to find the right balance but hasn’t been helped by injury problems.
“Once Stewart is ready to play a part, Martin will no doubt get him in the team to lead the line and shuffle the pack around him.”
Where in the pecking order will he be?
MW: “Adam Armstrong is the top goalscorer this season with seven goals but he can feature in a number of positions and has impressed on the right wing and in midfield already. Carlos Alcaraz has played as a false 9 but is a more natural midfielder, while Sekou Mara is a squad player.
“Stewart’s biggest battle will be with Che Adams, though his compatriot has struggled for goals of late, scoring in each of the first three league games of the season but failing to add to that tally since.”