GUS POYET will carefully manage Wes Brown’s participation over the festive period after the veteran defender’s breather last week.
Brown impressed after returning to the starting XI against Liverpool on Saturday, following his unused substitute’s role in the defeat to Manchester City three days earlier.
Poyet’s decision to leave Brown out against the reigning Premier League champions was somewhat forced, with the ex-England international suffering a knock to his knee in the draw against Chelsea, while on-loan Liverpool centre-half Sebastian Coates was ineligible for the trip to Anfield.
But at 35, Brown’s ability to play three games inside a week is a concern for Sunderland boss Poyet.
And with Sunderland facing five games inside 13 days over Christmas, Poyet is mindful that Brown is one of the players who will need to be used prudently.
Poyet told the Echo: “It’s difficult for him to play three games in a week.
“But last week, it was more difficult because he had a reaction in his knee and he didn’t train.
“Him not training and Sebber Coates not being available at Liverpool made it an easy decision.
“It was unfortunate for Sebber to come back from a long injury to play against Aguero.
“But at the same time, that might be the best thing that could happen to him, because everything that comes next won’t be as good.
“I think as well it’s important to have a squad which you can change without affecting the performance. That’s very good for a manager.
“Over Christmas, we’re going to play on the 26th and the 28th, and then the 1st and the 3rd.
“You have to use the squad then and be clever.
“That will be the idea.”
Brown and ex-Manchester United team-mate John O’Shea have remained Poyet’s first-choice central defensive duo this season, although with Coates, Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt all spending time on the treatment table, the Sunderland back four has largely picked itself.
But with Coates returning to the frame last week and Jones now back in full training, Poyet is looking forward to the prospect of some defensive selection decisions.
Poyet added: “It will be interesting if I’ve got everyone available. That will be nice.
“Four centre-halves and three full-backs. Then I can pick the team I want.
“At Liverpool, it wasn’t difficult to pick the back four.
“I haven’t had that option yet and it will be very important for the rest of the season.”