Why Sunderland will be patient with Josh Hawkes as 'quality' youngster makes return
Lee Johnson says Josh Hawkes has the quality to make an impact at Sunderland, but warned that the youngster is still catching up on his fitness.
Hawkes was slated to have a major role in the pre-season campaign after a stellar campaign at U23 level last time out, in which he was the key attacking player in the side that charged to the play-off final.
However, the youngster had to withdraw from the pre-season opener at Spennymoor Town after feeling unwell on the day of the game.
He subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 and like Alex Pritchard, a change to the return-to-play protocols meant an extended spell on the sidelines.
Hawkes made his return at York City on Tuesday night and will now push for more minutes in the coming week.
"Quality wise, he absolutely can [make an impact]," Johnson said.
"He's certainly got that end product that you're always looking for, he can finish and he's got good delivery.
"He's a little bit behind because he's been in a similar situation to Alex Pritchard.
"He had the spell out with COVID-19 and there's been a change in the rules around returning to action.
"If you've got symptons on day seven [after a positive test] you then have go through a heart screening.
"There's then a process where you're slowly phased in for another six days. Before it was ten days and then you could get them back in for training.
"It's still creeping up and about us, COVID-19, and it's something that I'm still quite anxious about if I'm honest, with the domino effect it can have."