Sunderland’s central defensive options remains the biggest selection poser for Sam Allardyce heading into tomorrow’s pivotal encounter against West Brom.
The £5million January capture of Ivory Coast international Lamine Kone has significantly strengthened Sunderland at the back, even though the Black Cats continue to search for their first clean sheet since November.
But who plays alongside Kone is a difficult decision for Allardyce – Younes Kaboul has got the nod ahead of captain John O’Shea in the last two games.
Kone and Kaboul have immediately formed an encouraging partnership, with the latter available to face the Baggies after returning to full training yesterday following a knock in the Tyne-Wear derby a fortnight ago.
Yet Allardyce is not closing the door on O’Shea, with the 34-year-old boasting the knowledge of what it takes to steer Sunderland to Premier League survival.
The Sunderland boss told the Echo: “It’s still tough on the basis that John O’Shea is the captain of the team and has so much experience.
“Younes came on against Crystal Palace because John had an injury, and then he played.
“He trained yesterday so he’s fit for tomorrow, and it’s a tough one for me.
“I’ll try to make the right decision on this particular game for the team.
“But the one good thing is the lad (Kone) they’re playing alongside has done unbelievable.
“His consistent level of performance has been miraculous considering he only joined us in January.
“He looks like he’s played in the Premier League all his career.
“That’s the good thing for us.
“At the moment, it looks like John and Younes are fighting for the one place, unless we go to a back three.
“And that’s excluding Wes Brown, who has done fantastic when he’s stepped in this year.
“Just before the turn of the year, he did great, so he’s been frustrated as well.”
Sunderland will assess right-back DeAndre Yedlin today when he resumes full training at the Academy of Light after returning from back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala for the USA.
If Yedlin is suffering from jet-lag, then Billy Jones is expected to be available, despite suffering a minor injury in last week’s behind-closed-doors friendly against Middlesbrough.
Allardyce has no other injury worries, other than long-term absentee Duncan Watmore.