Sunderland to let fringe players leave on loan

Connor Wickham

Connor Wickham

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MARTIN O’Neill will let his fringe players seek first-team football when the emergency loan window opens on Saturday.

The Sunderland manager admits outgoing loan deals have been the furthest thing from his mind in recent weeks as he worked to strengthen his squad in time for the new campaign.

But with five new signings now bedding in at the Stadium of Light – Adam Johnson, Steven Fletcher, Carlos Cuellar, Louis Saha and Danny Rose recruited – O’Neill is now looking what is best for the rest of the squad.

And with Football League clubs permitted to sign players on emergency loans from this weekend, eight days after the closure of the transfer window, O’Neill is now looking at the numerous requests he has had for young players on the edge of his squad.

O’Neill has stressed before that he wants to have strength in depth and has gone some way to addressing that with the quality of the signings he has brought in.

But he has the comfort of knowing that if an injury or suspension crisis does emerge at the Stadium of Light, anyone sent out on emergency loan can be recalled any time after the first 28 days of the loan.

“When the transfer window was still open, the most important aspect for me was what players we had available and to make sure that we were covered,” O’Neill admitted.

“But now the emergency loan window is getting ready to open this weekend, I’ll look at other things.

“There is the possibility that maybe some players will go out on loan.

“The key thing there is that they would be going on emergency loans, which means they could be called back after 28 days if necessary.

“I don’t mind allowing players to leave on emergency loans because they will be getting games and - providing we can survive the first 28 days - if we pick up injury problems, we can recall them.”

There are plenty of players who will come into the reckoning for moves.

At the top end of the scale, he will ponder over whether to allow £8million teenager Connor Wickham or 21-year-old South Korea international Ji Dong-won out on loan.

O’Neill said midway through last season that, in an ideal world, he would have allowed both to get football elsewhere to help with their development.

And now, with Fletcher, Saha, Stephane Sessegnon and Fraizer Campbell at his disposal, he might decide the time is right to let the two young prospects get more games under their belt.

Wickham, in particular, has a host of Championship clubs, led by Burnley, after his signature.

But the players likely to be quickest out of the doors are ones further down the pecking order.

Winger Craig Lynch has attracted the attention of Burnley, but Hartlepool United are believed to be closing in on a deal for the 20-year-old, as well as pursuing an interest in striker Ryan Noble, who spent a successful spell on loan at Victoria Park last season.

Others who will want to get out to prove themselves are centre-halves Louis Laing and John Egan, and midfielders Billy Knott, Roarie Deacon and Adam Reed.

Last season, Laing was on loan at Wycombe, Egan at Crystal Palace and Sheffield United while Reed played at Bradford and Leyton Orient

All the youngsters have something to prove – either in showing they deserve a first-team squad chance at Sunderland, or proving they could go on to do a good job for another club.

O’Neill allowed only one extended loan in the transfer window when he agreed to let Ahmed Elmohamady link up again with ex-Sunderland boss Steve Bruce at Hull City on a season-long deal, rather than an emergency loan which can only run for a maximum of three months.

O’Neill said: “Elmo was keen to play games, and that’s why I allowed him to join Hull.

“He will play matches there and the deal includes a clause that means we can recall him in January, if we need to.”

Sunderland are now well-catered on the right flank since the arrival of Adam Johnson, with Seb Larsson also happy to play there.