PROLIFIC homegrown striker Ryan Noble has completed a return to Championship club Derby County in a one-month loan deal.
Noble has been in scintillating form for the reserves with 13 goals in eight starts after recovering from a three-month back injury lay-off.
But the 20-year-old has found first-team opportunities hard to come by, making just two brief substitute appearances this season and yet to feature under new boss Martin O’Neill.
Millfield-born Noble will hope for more competitive action at Pride Park after becoming the eighth Sunderland rookie to leave the club on loan.
A host of Championship clubs have been scrapping for Noble’s services, but Derby have landed the lightning-quick frontman for the second time.
Noble joined the Rams on a loan deal at the start of last season, but a previous back injury limited him to just one substitute appearances.
Derby boss Nigel Clough said: “We liked what we saw of Ryan when he was here and we rate him as a good young player.
“Unfortunately, he has had a few injury problems but he seems to be over them now and he has been on the bench for Sunderland’s first team most of the season.
“He has been knocking in goals for their reserves and we are delighted that Martin O’Neill has let us have him for at least a month.”
Noble is highly-regarded at the Stadium of Light after three hat-tricks in four games for the second string before Christmas.
But there are reservations over whether he is physically ready for the Premier League after just six competitive substitute appearances in his career.
Like the rest of Sunderland’s loanees, Noble will join Derby for an initial month before O’Neill decides whether to extend the spell for longer.