MARTIN O’NEILL says Jack Colback and James McClean will not be the last of Sunderland’s first-team regulars to take a breather this season.
Midfielder Colback was an ever-present for Sunderland this season before he was dropped to the bench for the Stadium of Light clash with QPR 10 days ago and remained among the substitutes at Norwich last weekend.
Sunderland boss O’Neill remains a big fan of the 23-year-old, but the Tynesider had clearly endured a dip in form over recent weeks.
O’Neill has adopted a similar policy with McClean after leaving the Republic of Ireland winger on the bench for five out of the six games prior to the former Derry City man returning to the starting line-up at Norwich.
Although O’Neill has shown little inclination to practice wholesale rotation during his year-long tenure on Wearside, he says there will be times during the campaign when key members of the side need a break.
O’Neill told the Echo: “We don’t rotate like Manchester United.
“But we need to give players a bit of a rest occasionally and it’s Jack at the moment.
“James McClean has had to do that and it’s just a matter of timing.
“They might need to have a rest, have a little look from the bench and look at it from a different aspect.
“We’ve got seven games coming up in 26 days now over the Christmas period so there’s plenty of opportunity for everyone to play a part.”
O’Neill may opt to shuffle his pack over the course of the next four days, with Sunderland facing back-to-back home games.
After today’s clash with Chelsea, Sunderland host second bottom Reading at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday before next weekend’s trip to Manchester United.
The midweek game may offer a more feasible opportunity for injury doubts John O’Shea and Steven Fletcher to feature, with both struggling to be included for today’s game.
But O’Neill says his selection for Reading cannot be governed until today’s game has passed.
“You can’t start looking too far ahead, otherwise you get caught out,” added O’Neill.