Sunderland boss outlines his plan to deal with major injury setback - with chances for two 'big surprises'
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Michael Beale says he believes that Sunderland have the options to cover for Dennis Cirkin after the full back was ruled out for three months following hamstring surgery, and has hinted that it could mean opportunities for Jenson Seelt and Nectar Triantis.
Cirkin's setback was a further blow to Beale's defensive depth after Niall Huggins was ruled out for the rest of the season with a major knee injury. At this stage Sunderland are likely to look to internal solutions to manage the issue, and Aji Alese's return to fitness has also been timely.
A switch to a back three has already worked for Sunderland in recent weeks, with Jenson Seelt producing an excellent performance in the 1-0 win over Leeds United last month. That is likely to be Beale's first port of call should Trai Hume or Alese be unavailable, but the head coach has made clear that it is an area they would have to address were they to pick up another injury issue.
"We've got Aji who is playing there at the moment and Trai Hume, and we've got Timmy Pembele as well," Beale said.
"Timmy is one who we're very excited about but he obviously needs to pick up a bit on his fitness because he had a long time out. I think when everyone is available we've got fantastic options but obviously losing the two is going to make us think.
"It's a long month and I think we've got another three games before the end of the window so if we were to pick up another injury then for sure [we'd look to the market], but at the same time with young Jenson and Nectar [Triantis], we've got the option to go to a back three as well.
"I've been absolutely delighted with Jenson and Nectar since I came in, they've been two big surprises for me."
Beale added that he wanted to try and give Hume an extended run in his favoured right back role if possible, after injuries forced him out onto the left for an extended period earlier in the campaign.