Sunderland injury news: Alex Neil reveals Niall Huggins update

The Echo's chief Sunderland writer Phil Smith is providing in-depth coverage of the Portugal tour including friendlies with Rangers and Roma.

Alex Neil has confirmed that Niall Huggins is yet to return to full training with Sunderland.

It means that the full back is now highly unlikely to start the Championship season, with Neil stressing the importance of giving him all the time he needs to make a full and proper recovery.

The 21-year-old made an impressive start to life on Wearside after joining from Leeds United last season, but his campaign was brought to a premature end by two serious injuries.

Niall Huggins in action for Sunderland last season

Huggins suffered a stress fracture of the back before suffering the same injury in both of his heels as he began a comeback.

The defender is making progress in his recovery, and is out in Albufeira with the Sunderland squad as he continues his rehabilation with the club's medical team.

But Neil says there will be no rush to push him back into action.

"Unfortunately for Niall, he's not doing pre season with us at the moment," Neil said.

The Echo's chief Sunderland writer Phil Smith is providing in-depth coverage of the Portugal tour including friendlies with Rangers and Roma.

"He's still on the way back from his injury, which has obviously been ongoing.

"He's come out with us to work with the physios, he's part of our group and we want him to be involved.

"We just need to make slow progress with Niall, so we can get him in the best nick so that he doesn't break down. It's been tough for him.

"We value him a lot so we want him to get fit as soon as we can, but there's no rush on it.

"It's really important we get him back to a point where he doesn't break down."

It remains to be seen whether the injury will have any impact on Sunderland's summer recruitment plans.

As it stands, Neil has just two natural full back options at full fitness: Trai Hume on the right flank and Dennis Cirkin on the left.

Of course, Carl Winchester and Lynden Gooch both stepped into that right-sided role to great effect at differing times last season, and will likely be asked to do so again as the club look to consolidate at Championship level.

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