MARTIN O’NEILL has indicated his desire to keep David Meyler at the Stadium of Light despite a host of Championship clubs chasing the midfielder.
Meyler played the full 90 minutes in each of Sunderland’s two pre-season outings in South Korea and was one of the Black Cats’ more impressive performers for the Black Cats in the Peace Cup.
But the 23-year-old has started just once in the Premier League since O’Neill took charge last December and that has not gone unnoticed by the former Cork City man’s suitors.
Several Championship clubs have made enquiries with O’Neill over Meyler’s availability, including former Sunderland boss and current Hull City manager Steve Bruce.
But O’Neill has always been keen to give Meyler his chance in pre-season and appears in no hurry to let the Irishman leave Wearside, with three years still remaining on his contract.
“There’s loads of people interested in Meyler,” said O’Neill.
“But I think he’s got great courage and he’s a really great kid.
“I like him a lot and I can understand why teams want him.
“But he’s had some serious injuries and he’s still as brave as ever.”
Bruce is understood to be interested in taking Meyler on loan, rather than a permanent deal, due to understandable concerns over his injury record.
But the Tynesider, who is also chasing Ahmed Elmohamady, realises there is plenty of competition in Meyler and has pledged to remain patient to see if O’Neill has a change of heart.
Meyler is equally determined to make his mark under O’Neill after seeing his career stall through injury.
The central midfielder was on the mend from a second lay-off with knee ligament damage when O’Neill was appointed, and featured for just 20 minutes in the Premier League after being handed a start at Stoke in February.
But Meyler feels he will reap the rewards from a first full pre-season since arriving at Sunderland in the summer of 2008.
Meyler told the Echo: “I don’t know about any interest in me from any other clubs, but that’s not what interests me at the moment anyway.
“I’m just interested in trying to get to my match fitness for the new season, hoping to show the manager what I can do. I’ve been delighted to be involved in the trip to South Korea and hopefully I’ll get more opportunities ahead of the new season.
“It’s great to be back playing again, I’ve had no problems with the old injury and it’s just a case of trying to get as many matches as possible under my belt now.”