TEENAGE Altrincham sensation Duncan Watmore has landed a dream opportunity of a top-flight career after being snapped up by Sunderland for an undisclosed fee.

The 19-year old striker, who was also wanted by Bolton, is on course to become the first product of Altrincham’s youth system to appear in the Barclays Premier League after signing a two-year deal at the Stadium of Light.

He will initially link up with Kevin Ball’s under-21 squad but is sure to be monitored by manager Paolo Di Canio after making a stunning impact in his first full season as a regular starter for Alty in the Blue Square Bet Conference North.

A brilliant solo effort from inside his own half against Corby won the club’s goal of the season award, and he was also voted fans’ player of the year.

‘While there will be some disappointment at not seeing Duncan in an Altrincham shirt next season, there is also an immense sense of pride that he has deservedly earned himself a fantastic opportunity to play at the highest level,’ said Alty chairman Grahame Rowley. ‘A lot of people felt Ryan Shotton got his grounding at Altrincham after spending a season on loan with us from Stoke.

‘But this is different. With Duncan, you are talking about a genuine product of this club, an Alty lad through and through, who came to us at 15 and spent a year with the juniors before working his way through the youth ranks and into the first team. Now he’s got the opportunity to play for a Premier League club, and good luck to him. Who could pass up a chance like that?

‘It is another string to our bow, as well as an exciting development for Duncan, and we will follow his progress at Sunderland with interest and pride. We have been very pleased, as well, with the support he has received from his family, especially his father Ian, who conducted the negotiations with Sunderland and ensured the final outcome benefitted us as well as Duncan.

‘This day was always going to come, because his spectacular progress last season attracted the attention of an awful lot of League clubs. Now negotiations with Sunderland have been concluded satisfactorily on both sides, we all wish Duncan every success in his new venture.’ After Manchester United decided against keeping him on, following a six-year spell in the Academy, it represents a second opportunity to make the grade for a lightning quick frontrunner who scored 15 goals in 35 starts for Alty.

Watmore, who is studying economics and finance at Manchester University but will now transfer his degree course to Sunderland, said: ‘I am delighted at the opportunity Sunderland have given me and excited by the move. They have one of the finest academies in England, and the Sunderland people have been very welcoming and professional throughout.

‘I also want to put on record my thanks to Altrincham for giving me my chance and developing me. In particular, George Heslop brought me through the youth team, the manager Lee Sinnott has taught me so much, and the whole Club have supported me all the way. Whatever happens in the future I will always be an Alty fan.’ Sinnott, whose side narrowly missed out on promotion after a play-off defeat by Brackley, added: ‘We would all like to congratulate Duncan on securing a move to Sunderland AFC. He has been a popular member of the squad and Sunderland are acquiring a player with many years of development in him. It is a wonderful opportunity for him and we will watch his progress with interest.’