KIERAN Richardson is back in the frame to feature against Spurs tomorrow, though Martin O’Neill admits Jack Colback has given him food for thought at left-back.
Richardson returned to the bench at Manchester City last weekend after missing the previous five games with a calf problem sustained in the Tyne-Wear derby.
The 27-year-old was never likely to feature at the Etihad Stadium though, after just one day of training, with tomorrow’s visit of fourth-placed Spurs a far more realistic prospect for the former Manchester United man’s return.
But midfielder Colback impressed O’Neill with his display at left-back last Saturday and could remain there after similarly shining as a makeshift left-back in the reverse fixture with City three months ago.
O’Neill told the Echo: “Kieran had only done the one day of training and he said himself that he’s one of those lads who needs a bit of training done before he plays.
“It was good to welcome him back into the fold. He’s clear of injury now and hopefully he can stay that way between now and the end of the season.
“But young Colback was magnificent at left-back.
“He played really well and wasn’t fazed at all.
“That’s twice he’s played against Man City at left-back and played great both times.”
O’Neill insists he won’t let his focus drift to Monday’s clash with Everton in deciding his line-up for tomorrow despite Sunderland facing the demands of two games inside 48 hours.
The Black Cats boss has indicated that he is keen to see his fringe players in action before the end of the season.
But O’Neill has pledged that anyone who is given an opportunity in the starting line-up must earn that right.
“I just think you treat each game at a time,” he said.
“The games are still very important for us.
“While I’d love to give the likes of Ji (Dong-won), Elmo (Ahmed Elmohamady) and people like that I’ve not seen a great deal of, to get some footballing time, I’m not going to promise it either.
“I’m hoping that will be the case before the end of the season.
“But every single minute that anyone is on the field, they have to be deserving of it.”