Phil Parkinson explains his thinking ahead of crucial Sunderland defensive selection call

Tom Flanagan is in line for a recall to the Sunderland XI on Saturday, though Phil Parkinson is not yet ruling out bringing Alim Ozturk back into the side.

Thursday, 6th February 2020, 3:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th February 2020, 3:30 pm

Parkinson will need to reshuffle his defence with Joel Lynch unavailable for the visit of Ipswich Town.

Lynch is recovering well after being knocked unconscious at Portsmouth last weekend, but will not face Paul Lambert’s side as he deals with rib and knee problems sustained in the collision with Jon McLaughlin at Fratton Park.

Flanagan has impressed Parkinson in that role on the left of the back three and is in pole position to return.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Tom Flanagan looks set to return to the Sunderland side this weekend

“Tom has done well in that position so there’d be no hesitation in putting him in," Parkinson said.

“He was probably unfortunate not be starting anyway because if we go back a bit, there were a couple of home games where he’s scored a goal and put in very good performances.

“He’s been training well so he’s ready.”

Ozturk lost his place to new signing Bailey Wright last week, a decision Parkinson had admitted was ‘very, very tough’.

Though he is not seen as a candidate to replace Lynch directly, Parkinson does say he could return to his central role, shifting Wright to the left.

“The way I look at that is, Bailey can play on the left or right as well,” he said.

“I haven’t seen Alim play in those positions, he’s always played in the centre, at Hearts as well.

“I’m sure he could, but in terms of flexibility and the make-up of the defenders, Bailey Wright has played on the left or right of the three.

“What Tom has been very good at is stepping in with the ball for us.

“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.”

After dropping Ozturk for the 1-0 win over Tranmere, Parkinson insisted that he would be back in the fold before long.

“It was tough on Alim, very tough, but my gut was that it was the right night for Bailey to come into the team,” he said.

“It is a squad game… we’re going to need everybody.

“You don't expect anybody to be happy but you've got to respond in the right way and Alim took it like the professional he is.

“He's going to be needed, probably sooner rather than later.”

Ozturk again missed out on a place in the squad for the 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth.