Michael Beale delivers his verdict on Sunderland's Jobe Bellingham selection dilemma

Michael Beale has said that Sunderland are working to protect Jobe Bellingham from burnout in his breakout season as a senior professional
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Michael Beale says he is confident that Sunderland can manage Jobe Bellingham's workload and avoid the risk of burnout now that the fixture schedule is easing.

Bellingham has been a regular in the side and an impressively consistent performer since joining from Birmingham City in the summer, making 28 appearances across all competition and already contributing four goals. That has led to some inevitable concern about fatigue given his lack of senior football before the current campaign, and given the club's experience during their promotion season from League One - in which a number of young players tired in the second half of the campaign.

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Beale admits he was concerned about Bellingham's workload over the festive period after both Bradley Dack and Patrick Roberts picked up injuries, but says it is something that can managed much better from week to week now.

"We had a huge issue in terms of having those four games in ten days when I first came in, because we picked up injuries in that period," Beale said.

"But we wanted to come out of that period in the top six and we were able to do that, which was pleasing. But it wasn't just Jobe there were one or two others where [we were concerned]. The scheduling, we're now playing one game a week for a month and it seems crazy that we had that fixture list at the time. We lost three players to injury in that period, and it doesn't help the product on the pitch either. It wasn't just Jobe. He's a player who wants to play football every minute of the day, he is first in the building and last out, obsessed with the game. Sometimes, you're right, we do need to give someone a break. Over that run of games it was an issue but now with the schedule I have I think it is less so, because we can modify the training schedule for him."

Bellingham played up front during last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Birmingham City, though Nazariy Rusyn is in contention to return to the starting XI for Hull City's visit on Friday night. Bellingham could therefore drop into a midfield role.