Forgotten man Donald Love is looking to bounce back strongly from a nightmare campaign and force his way into Jack Ross’ plans for next season.
The 24-year-old defender didn’t feature for the Black Cats after September as a result of ankle ligament damage which he needed surgery on.
The right-back returned to training towards the end of the season and is now aiming to kick on when the players return to the Academy of Light in early July.
The 2018-19 campaign proved a bitterly disappointing one for Sunderland having failed to win promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
But for Love it was a nightmare season having had to contend with a serious injury blow just weeks into the campaign.
Luke O’Nien and Adam Matthews battled it out for the right-back slot over the course of the season but with Matthews out of contract this summer and likely to leave given he is one of the highest earners at the club and O’Nien a midfielder by trade, then the door may be ajar for Love.
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Love played in a few behind-closed doors games and turned out for the Under-23s against Middlesbrough towards the end of the season and he will be looking to make an impression when the squad returns for pre-season.
“I came back in training [towards the end of the season] and had a few little niggles just because it’s been so long but it was just about getting the minutes in my legs and getting back up to speed.
“Hopefully I’ll have a good pre-season and be able to kick on.”
Love’s ankle injury restricted him to just four appearances before undergoing an operation at the end of last year.
“I did it 20 minutes into the Charlton game, I did my ankle ligament, tried playing through it and it just wasn’t right,” added Love, who ultimately needed ligament reconstruction before making his return to fitness.