WAYNE Bridge’s chances of making a first Sunderland start have not necessarily been influenced by a second substitute’s outing, admits Martin O’Neill.
On-loan Manchester City defender Bridge and fellow January signing Sotirios Kyrgiakos have been limited to fringe roles since arriving at the Stadium of Light despite both boasting a wealth of international experience.
But after playing the final 30 minutes at West Brom last weekend, Bridge has been mooted as a possible starter in Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby, with fellow left-back Kieran Richardson struggling at the Hawthorns.
Despite admitting Bridge has been impressing on the training pitch at the Academy of Light, O’Neill believes it is tough to judge the former England international on his appearance against West Brom, with the game already lost and Sunderland chasing an unlikely comeback.
O’Neill told the Echo: “It’s difficult to make a complete assessment on half an hour.
“He’s come in and actually he’s done very well in training.
“He’s desperate to play obviously and he got that chance of 10 or 15 minutes against Norwich earlier in the season.
“He did okay at West Brom, but it’s hard to make a judgment on that. We were chasing the game at the time.
“At least he’s got half an hour’s play which perhaps two months ago, is more than he thought he’d get.”
Bridge has been one of a select few training on Wearside this week, with 13 players away on international duty, even though two of those – Phil Bardsley and Keiren Westwood – pulled out of the Scotland and Ireland squads through injury.
Sunderland’s squad only met up this morning for the first time since the 4-0 loss at West Brom, with O’Neill backing Uefa’s plan for fewer friendlies on the international calendar, even though Sunderland duo Fraizer Campbell and James McClean made their senior bows on Wednesday night.
The Black Cats boss added: “The disappointing aspect of the West Brom game is that we’ve not been able to get together until today due to players going away on international duty.
“Some of those who played in the game have still been around, but this morning was the first time we’d met together as a group.
“For any club manager at this stage of the season, it’s a concern for a friendly game to be stuck in the middle of the week.
“I think Uefa are talking about lessening the friendly fixtures which has to be really good news.
“My own view is that I’m not completely sure that you learn a great deal as an international manager, except if you perhaps have a James McClean coming in or with Stuart Pearce using Fraizer.
“I generally don’t see the point of these friendlies, but then again it’s lovely for Fraizer and James to have played a part in the games.”