MARTIN O’Neill will recall on-loan David Meyler from Hull City next week to help ease the club’s injury crisis.
The 23-year-old has been at the KC Stadium since early November and former Black Cats’ boss Steve Bruce, now manager of the Tigers, was hoping to extend the young Irishman’s stay deep into the New Year.
But those hopes will be dashed as O’Neill looks to deal with injuries which could leave him with only two central midfielders to call upon in the remaining games of 2012.
Sunderland’s problems in the middle started when skipper Lee Cattermole was sidelined with a knee ligament injury in the game against QPR just over a fortnight ago.
And they have been deepened, ironically, by injury to full-back Phil Bardsley who suffered ligament damage in the game against Reading on Tuesday.
The obvious deputy for Bardsley is central midfielder Craig Gardner.
And that leaves O’Neill with only Jack Colback, David Vaughan and Seb Larsson to call on to occupy the all-important central midfield roles.
The manager came within a whisker of recalling Meyler on Friday with Adam Johnson still struggling with the dead leg sustained in the win over Reading.
If Johnson had been out, that would have meant Larsson moving to right-wing and O’Neill having only Colback and Vaughan for central midfield with no obvious back-up.
It’s a situation that the manager can not really tolerate.
And that’s why Meyler’s return should be confirmed at some stage next week.
O’Neill told the Echo: “I’m thinking about recalling David Meyler for our Christmas programme.
“In fact, that looks like being a certainty.
“I’ve spoken to Steve Bruce about it and he understands the situation. He knows we’re having a look at it and he appreciates the position.”
Meyler has played six games for Hull. There have been three wins, two defeats and one draw as City have maintained their promotion push – and in his outing last week, the 2-1 win over Watford, he got his first goal for the club.
O’Neill said: “David has done well for Hull but he’s essentially our player. He’s played games for them, which is great, because that’s what he needed and wasn’t getting here.
“But the situation is different now and we’ll see how we are next week.”