JAMES McFADDEN’S fitness remains the principal barrier towards the Bosman arrival challenging for a first-team place.
Time is running out for McFadden to make his Sunderland debut, with just a month left to run on his short-term deal at the Stadium of Light.
The 29-year-old (left) earned a spot on the Sunderland bench for the third time in last weekend’s defeat at Norwich City after penning a three-month contract with the Black Cats in October, following a successful trial spell.
A hamstring injury sustained within a fortnight of McFadden’s arrival hampered the Scotland international, although it only sidelined him for around a week and he has been able to spend the last month in full training.
But although McFadden believes he is now ready to feature in the Premier League, Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill remains wary after the forward made just eight appearances for Everton last season, following a cruciate knee ligament injury while playing for Birmingham the previous year.
O’Neill told the Echo: “It is the fitness aspect with James. If you asked James, he’d say he’s fit now and he’s ready to go.
“But my assessment might be slightly different.
“No matter how fit he may think he is, playing the game and lasting a match are two totally different things. But we’ll see with him.
“At least he’s trying to put himself forward for selection anyway.”
Unless McFadden can make an impression for Sunderland before his contract expires in mid-January, then it is unlikely he will be offered a longer stay on Wearside, with O’Neill keen to strengthen his hand in the transfer window.
But McFadden at least had the chance to catch O’Neill’s eye during Monday’s Under-21 romp over Stoke City, at the Stadium of Light.
Senior trio McFadden, Titus Bramble and Fraizer Campbell all completed 90 minutes for the U21s in a 4-1 victory over a youthful Stoke outfit.
“James, Fraizer Campbell and Titus all played on Monday,” added O’Neill. “We changed the reserve fixture to the Stadium of Light because it’s a better surface for the senior players, but Stoke had a very young team out indeed.
“But it was a useful exercise for the boys and the minutes will help them.”