The big Sunderland selection calls Phil Parkinson is weighing up and the decisions you can expect
Phil Parkinson is weighing up a number of key selection calls ahead of Ipswich Town’s crucial visit to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
So what are they and who will play?
We run through the key dilemmas….
Parkinson’s biggest call of the weekend comes at centre-back, where he will be forced into a reshuffle due to an injury to Joel Lynch.
Sunderland were immensely relieved this week after tests showed that the 32-year-old had not suffered any serious injuries after the collision with Jon McLaughlin at Fratton Park.
Nevertheless, Lynch has issues with his ribs and his knee and so will be eased back into action next week.
It leaves Parkinson with a big decision to make, as both Tom Flanagan and Alim Ozturk were an important part of the side that went on a nine-game unbeaten run near the turn of the year.
After dropping Ozturk for Bailey Wright at Tranmere Rovers last week, Parkinson admitted it had been a ‘very, very tough call’.
Ozturk won the respect of his manager for playing through the pain barrier early in his tenure when opportunities had been limited limited and his consistency thereafter.
The issue for him at the moment is that Parkinson views him as best as the central option of the three, a position currently earmarked for Wright.
When asked about that dynamic on Thursday, Parkinson explained why Flanagan was the obvious replacement to step into the left-sided role, particularly on home turf.
“What Tom has been very good at is stepping in with the ball for us,” he said.
“To make the system work the centre-backs have got to step in and create the extra man for us, and he has done that very well, he does it quickly and though his right foot is his best foot, he’s good on his left as well.
“What we’ve talked about a lot is when the centre-back does step in quickly, it bumps the wing-backs up another ten yards up the pitch.
“If you look at the games where Tom has played behind Denver, it has allowed him to play higher and get possession higher up the pitch, which is what we need from the wing-backs.”
Parkinson did spell out a future route into the side for Ozturk, saying that he would be comfortable moving Wright out to the left.
For now, though, it looks like Flanagan’s place, with Parkinson drawing reference to recent excellent performances against Lincoln City and Wycombe Wanderers.
Max Power has been an integral part of Phil Parkinson’s side in recent weeks, regularly wearing the captain’s armband.
That doesn’t look like changing anytime soon but the other central midfield role is likely to be shared this week.
George Dobson is one booking away from a two-match ban and his form has just dipped of late.
The youngster has done superbly to establish himself as a regular under Parkinson but after finally getting a week on the training ground, Josh Scowen is pushing for a start.
He was one of many players to take part in a training game on Tuesday in order to help with his tactical integration, and Parkinson was clear on Thursday that he would be fit to start if required.
“Josh has obviously been in and around the QPR team so it was just a case of getting him integrated,” Parkinson said.
“He obviously came in prior to the Tranmere game and then we’ve travelled down to Portsmouth, so he had very little training time.
“This is the first week really he’s had to train with us.”
Ethan Robson will also be pushing for inclusion in the matchday squads over the coming week, particularly if Dobson is suspended at some stage.
Grant Leadbitter has been given a leave of absence for the club for personal reasons.
An area of the pitch where, for now, Parkinson’s decisions are probably relatively simple.
Antoine Semenyo will be pushing for inclusion in the coming weeks but Parkinson has suggested that both he and fellow loanee Declan John are a bit short of the match fitness required to start a game.
“Antoine and Declan need a bit of work, but obviously they’ve been in and around the first team and training [at their parent clubs,” Parkinson said.
“When you get caught in that substitute role, you do fall a little bit behind on match fitness but most signings in January have that.”
Parkinson is set to make a late decision on Charlie Wyke, with the striker a doubt due to a shoulder problem.
The Black Cats boss revealed on Thursday that Wyke had actually gone into the game with a minor shoulder problem, which was exacerbated by his collision with goalkeeper Alex Bass just before the break.
Wyke was replaced by Kyle Lafferty, and getting those 45 minutes under his belt will leave him in pole position to start should Wyke not make it.
The Northern Ireland international also played 45 minutes in that practice game on Tuesday.
The injury to Wyke could also mean a return to the squad for Will Grigg.
It will be fascinating to see if he can force his way into the picture over the next week. He has not played any first team football since December 14th but Parkinson has made a point of late in stressing how good his attitude and quality has been in training.
He also pointed out that Grigg had scored and impressed in that practice game.