Jack Ross has confirmed Lee Cattermole wasn't involved in the squad against Charlton Athletic for tactical reasons.
Cattermole’s absence from the 18-man matchday squad is the clearest indication yet the experienced midfielder isn’t part of Ross’ first team plans, with 16-year-old Hebburn youngster Bali Mumba starting and Elliot Embleton named on the bench.
Sunderland are looking to slash the wage bill this summer with a number of high earners having already been moved off the wage bill.
The likes of Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji are also expected to leave the club, while Cattermole could also depart, Hull City having been linked with a loan move for the 30-year-old.
When asked why Cattermole, who missed the Boro friendly through illness, wasn’t involved against Charlton and whether there was a transfer update, Ross said: “No transfer update.
“It was just a decision based on what I felt was right for today, I always assess players individually and us as a team and what I thought was right for us on the pitch.
“Nothing more than that.”
With Dylan McGeouch nursing a calf injury, he wasn’t risked and Ross instead opted for 16-year-old Mumba in central midfield.
The teenager won praise from the Sunderland boss who insisted it was no risk to play him given his impressive form this pre-season.
Ross said: “Bali Mumba wasn’t a risk for me. It maybe was seen as a gamble, he was playing because we had limited options. He deserved to play.
“Was he outstanding? No. Was he good? Yes. Was he responsible? Yes. Even towards the end of the game, he took a quick free-kick and gave it away but his reaction was good.
“He wanted the ball again.
“He has a brilliant future ahead of him. He will get better, he is a really good lad and wants to learn, he should be very proud of his performance.
“To do that, at that age, was terrific.”