MARTIN O’NEILL will continue to preach patience with Fraizer Campbell, despite the striker’s inclusion in the first-team squad.
Campbell was in the party which travelled to London last weekend for Sunderland’s trip to Chelsea, but did not manage to earn a place on the bench.
Black Cats boss O’Neill is hopeful it will not be too long before the former Manchester United man is involved, after returning to full fitness following 18 months on the sidelines with knee ligament damage.
But O’Neill will not take any risks over the 24-year-old, who has seen his career stall since rupturing his cruciate against Manchester City in August 2010.
O’Neill told the Echo: “We had him in the squad down at Chelsea, but I didn’t put him on the bench because he’d had very little football.
“I said to him that he wouldn’t have been one of the three players I was looking to bring on to the field. Therefore, there was little point having him on the bench at that stage.
“The more football he can get, the better.
“It’s just a matter of time, hopefully a short amount, but time nevertheless.
“I think he’s a naturally fit lad anyway, but he’s been out of the game for a fairly lengthy time.
“It would be great to see him back in a Sunderland first-team shirt and I don’t think that will be phenomenally long away.”
O’Neill will take a similar stance with Campbell’s fellow long-term absentee Craig Gordon.
The Scotland keeper has made two appearances for the reserves since recovering from his own knee injury, although he suffered a slight niggle in training this week.
“Craig is a wee bit similar to Fraizer in that he’s back,” added O’Neill.
“He felt a little bit sore after training the other day and I think that’s really understandable.
“But he’s working with us on a daily basis now and it’s just a matter of feeling that he’s absolutely right.”