JACK Colback could be handed his first Premier League start at Arsenal this weekend as Steve Bruce bids to add fresh legs to his flagging side.
Black Cats boss Bruce only has meagre options at his disposal for Saturday’s trip to the Emirates, with nine first-team players missing training at the Academy of Light yesterday through injury.
But midfielder Colback is one who may benefit from Bruce’s desire to change a side which has lost four successive games despite the 21-year-old making just one senior start for the Black Cats – in January’s FA Cup third round defeat to Notts County.
Anton Ferdinand, who endured a torrid time at right-back in last weekend’s defeat at Everton, is at risk of losing his place with Ahmed Elmohamady or Kieran Richardson likely to come into the back four.
That would see Colback taking the vacant spot in midfield after impressing Bruce since returning from a two-month loan spell at Championship club Ipswich at the start of January.
Bruce said: “Jack might get a run-out in the middle of the park.
“He did really well at Blackpool at left-back so maybe it’s time for him.”
Bruce admits he would love to make significant changes to his starting XI after the dire display at Goodison Park.
But Sunderland’s injury crisis has left Bruce with threadbare options and he knows he must continue to put faith in the players who have endured Sunderland’s worst run of the season.
“I would love to be able to freshen it up and bring a few in to give us that impetus again, but I can’t,” he said.
“I’ve got to give a big pat on the back to the squad who’ve played relentlessly week in, week out.
“But I’ve never had the opportunity to threaten anyone with their place in the team.
“The biggest weapon a manager can have is competition for places.
“When you’re without nine, who were out yesterday, then it becomes very difficult for everyone concerned, especially a manager.
“Arguably six or seven of those would be playing on Saturday if they were fit.
“It’s crying out to be freshened up – everyone would agree with that.
“But, at this moment, I can’t so we have to get on with the lads we’ve got who have battled on fantastically well even though some of them are on their knees from the amount of games they’ve played.
“That’s why the big teams rotate.
“I’ve tried to keep bubbling along.
“But, ultimately, you know eventually it will catch up with you in this league.”