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Jack Ross on the chat he hopes will kick-start out of favour midfielder’s Sunderland career

SAFC 0-0 SCFC SAFC (4-3 on pens) 04-09-2018. The Stadium of Light . Picture by FRANK REID
SAFC 0-0 SCFC SAFC (4-3 on pens) 04-09-2018. The Stadium of Light . Picture by FRANK REID
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Before Saturday’s game Jack Ross was close to having a full squad to call upon.

Now it is back to the drawing board with four starters from that game definitely missing, and one or two more classed as doubts.

That is a blow for the Black Cats boss but every injury brings opportunity.

For Reece James, perhaps, who looked set to be first choice left-back before Bryan Oviedo stayed and Denver Hume emerged.

The likes of Alim Ozturk, Jerome Sinclair and Adam Matthews could all come into contention for a return.

In midfield, the decision for Ross is probably quite simple, with Max Power poised to return in place of the suspended Lee Cattermole.

There will be a place on the bench for another midfielder, however.

Luke O’Nien, Bali Mumba and Ethan Robson will all likely be considered.

O’Nien arrived as an eye-catching signing in the summer, his reputation rising and many League One clubs left frustrated that the Black Cats had beaten them to his signature.

He was thrown straight into action against Charlton Athletic but since then it has been a struggle.

Ross has spoken of the midfielder’s need to adapt but he has perhaps been a victim of circumstance, too. When O’Nien signed shortly before the season began, Power had not yet arrived and few would have predicted the consistency with which Cattermole has performed. “

At Coventry City he missed out on the squad altogether.

Ross, however, is adamant that O’Nien can make an impact this season.

Alongside first team coach John Potter, he has taken the 23-year-old to one side to highlight what he needs to do to get back into the reckoning.

“He’s such a good lad, he’s got a real willingness to get better,” Ross said.

“It’s been a big change for him, not just in the size of the club but in the way that we play, what he’s asked to do.

“I think there was a wee period where, it’s a fine line but he’s so conscientious and sometimes you can muddle yourself with trying to change too much.

“We had a good chat with him last week, Potts spoke to him and then I spoke to him, about getting back to the reasons why we brought him to the club.

“The other stuff he can get better at but those are the foundations, the reasons we wanted him. I think that was good for him, I think it clarified things a bit for him,” Ross added.

“On Saturday he was a bit unfortunate, [we had to think about] the balance of the bench. He’s one who in the next few games, because of where we are, the chance could come.

“When the opportunity comes, he has to take it.

“He’ll probably say himself, has he taken the chances he’s had, even though they’ve been really limited, he probably hasn’t been at his best. But he’s training well and I think that clarification will help.”

O’Nien has made seven appearances in all competitions since signing from Wycome Wanderers.