Phil Parkinson set to be without two defenders for Sunderland's opening competitive fixtures

Sunderland will be without Tom Flanagan and Conor McLaughlin for the opening two games of the new season.

Monday, 24th August 2020, 10:19 am

The pair have been named in new Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough's first squad for matches against Romania and Norway.

However, Phil Parkinson has been handed a boost with Will Grigg not named in the squad.

The 29-year-old will be looking to build on a promising first pre-season outing, in which he contributed a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win over Gateshead.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sunderland defender Tom Flanagan

Sunderland's competitive season will begin against Hull City at the Stadium of Light on September 5th, with the game confirmed as a 3pm kick-off.

Grant McCann's side will be without Josh Magennis, who has also been named in the Northern Ireland squad by Baraclough.

McCann is also expected to be without summer signing Lewie Coyle, who is suspended, and forward James Scott, who has been named in the Scotland U21 squad.

Sunderland are currently set to play their first EFL Trophy game days later against Aston Villa U21s, with the season proper set to begin against Bristol Rovers on September 12th.

Sunderland defender Conor McLaughlin

Parkinson revealed after the win over Gateshead on Saturday that he had been trying to bring the clash with Aston Villa's youngsters forward, but added that he did not think he would be successful.

Despite the arrival of former Everton youngster Morgan Feeney last week, Parkinson remains in the market for defensive additions.

He wants cover and competition for Denver Hume (with Dan Neil and Jake Hackett asked to fill in that role at the International Stadium), and is set to make a decision on trialist Arbenit Xhemaji, who featured for 45 minutes on Saturday.

Xhemajli fits the bill as a natural left-sided defender, but Parkinson is still assessing his options.

"Arbenit is a good player,” Parkinson said.

“One of the factors in the salary cap issue is that it does become a numbers game.

“You can only have 22 players over the age of 21 and so we have to be really careful and ensure anyone who comes in is ready to make a contribution.

“He did well today.”