JACK Colback believes David Meyler merits an opportunity in Sunderland’s starting XI, with Craig Gardner’s suspension leaving a midfield spot up for grabs.
Gardner will miss Saturday’s Stadium of Light clash with Bolton after earning a one-match ban for a second yellow card in the final minute of last weekend’s goalless draw at his former club Aston Villa.
If skipper Lee Cattermole fails to recover from the knee injury which has kept him out of Sunderland’s last two games, Meyler and David Vaughan are the obvious candidates to line up alongside Colback in the middle of the park against the second bottom Trotters.
Of the two, Vaughan has found chances far easier to come by under Martin O’Neill, with the former Blackpool man starting 13 times during the Sunderland manager’s reign.
But with O’Neill persistently indicating a willingness to include those on the fringes during the run-in, Meyler is in contention despite starting just once this season – February’s 1-0 victory at Stoke City.
Colback (left) told the Echo: “Vaughany has been in and out all season, while Dave has had to be patient and it would be good for him to get a chance. But obviously it’s up to the manager.
“It’s unfortunate for Gards because I thought he did really well at Villa.
“It was probably a harsh sending off because (Marc) Albrighton knocked the ball 20 yards ahead of him and was never going to get there.
“But obviously he’ll miss Saturday’s game and hopefully whoever comes in can do well.
“It was a bit flat in midfield against Wolves and we didn’t get going all game. But at Villa, we played well and created quite a few chances.”
Victory for Bolton in tonight’s crunch relegation clash at Villa would see them heading to Wearside harbouring hopes of moving out of the bottom three.
Colback says Sunderland need no prompting about the difficulties in beating those scrapping at the bottom after draws against relegated Wolves and Villa in the Black Cats’ last two games.
But the 22-year-old is eager for Sunderland to end their six-hour goal drought and return to the top 10 by triumphing in the first of their final three games.
“Teams go through these runs without goals and they’re part and parcel of football,” he added. “It would be worrying if we weren’t creating chances, but we are. I’m sure the goals are not far away.
“But when you’re creating chances like at Villa and you don’t score, you feel like it’s two points dropped.
“We’ve just got to move onto the Bolton game and try to get three points. It will be a similar game to the Wolves one. It’s always a tough game at this stage of the season to play someone down there.
“We just need to set our stall out and play well. If we play to our capabilities, we should win the game. Bolton have got the midweek game tonight and it’s tough playing three in a week.
“But they’ll be going into every game determined to get points because time’s running out.
“If we win the next three games, we’ll finish in the top 10 and that would be classed as a successful season.”