A right-back was the one position which Sam Allardyce was unable to address in the January transfer window.
It will be back at the top of the wish-list this summer – regardless of which division Sunderland are in – with West Ham’s Joey O’Brien again linked with a move to the Stadium of Light.
O’Brien worked under Allardyce at both Bolton and West Ham and his contract at Upton Park expires at the end of the season.
The Republic of Ireland international was on Sunderland’s radar in January, as were Mathieu Debuchy and Lamine Gassama, who both reached dead-ends.
After Allardyce was unable to bring in either right-back, he agreed to let Emmanuel Eboue join on trial and then handed the ex-Arsenal man a short-term deal, before his fledgling Sunderland career ended farcically when FIFA confirmed the 32-year-old was facing a one-year ban.
Without Eboue and after Billy Jones produced a string of notable errors, Allardyce was forced to turn to on-loan Spurs defender DeAndre Yedlin.
Allardyce had his reservations over Yedlin’s lack of Premier League experience during his early months at the Stadium of Light, yet there has been an improvement from the USA international since taking Jones’ spot in the starting XI.
And Allardyce says Yedlin does deserve some credit for coping with the pressure of the relegation dogfight, with Sunderland’s Premier League status hanging by a thread.
“I have to say something on DeAndre who seems to have managed the situation as a young player in the Premier League for the first time, much, much better recently,” said Allardyce.
“Whether that’s because there’s better players around him and they’re helping him a bit more, I’ve been really pleased with his performances at right-back.
“Hopefuly he’ll maintain those.
“As a young man of his age, you’ve got to look at the mistakes, look at your whole game and learn from them.
“He’s had a lot to take in and learn in a short period of time after coming from the States to the Premier League.
“But all the tools are there to help him.
“And it seems like he’s doing a job.
“Going forwards, I like him. He’s got pace, he can take a player on, although perhaps his final ball needs to get a bit better.
“But at the other end, he’s getting better.”