A CLUTCH of Championship clubs are understood to be interested in taking Sunderland midfielder David Meyler on loan.
The Black Cats battler has made an impressive return after suffering a serious cruciate ligament injury.
But with Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback and Craig Gardner all in fine form since the turn of the year he has been unable to cement a place in Martin O’Neill’s starting XI.
And that has alerted a crop of second tier sides who are looking to bolster their options with a one-month loan move.
The Journal understands that Brighton and Doncaster have both asked to be kept updated on Meyler’s availability – with other clubs also monitoring the 22-year-old.
While still balancing the demands of the FA Cup and the Premier League, the club are unlikely to let the player go out on loan.
However, that may change if Sunderland’s interest in the Cup competition ends at Everton in a couple of weeks.
Meyler would prefer to stay on Wearside and O’Neill will be torn between the Ireland midfielder’s need for first-team games and the desire to keep the star at the Stadium of Light as senior back-up in case of injuries and suspensions.
If he did depart, Meyler would be the most high-profile Sunderland player to leave on loan this season.
The Black Cats have mostly been utilising the system to give their young guns a taste of first-team football.
O’Neill will no doubt want to see what Meyler can do ahead of a summer in which further changes at the Stadium of Light are inevitable. The Sunderland boss always maintained he would give his entire squad an opportunity to prove themselves before drawing any lasting conclusions and by signing just two loan players in the January transfer window he was true to his word.
He will not be quite so reticent to the wield the axe in the close season, however, and The Journal understands that Ahmed Elmohamady is among those vulnerable to a summer shake up.
Meanwhile, Sunderland are continuing their preparations for Sunday’s high-noon Tyne-Wear showdown with midfielder Jack Colback insisting that the team bear no scars from their previous defeats to Newcastle.
O’Neill’s men return to St James’ Park for the first time since suffering a humiliating 5-1 reverse in October 2010 but Tynesider Colback insists they will not carry any baggage into the game.
In clashes between the North East rivals under Steve Bruce it did appear that Sunderland struggled to rise to the occasion but many of those shortcomings appear to have been erased under O’Neill.
Colback (pictured above) is certain that they can put up a better fight this time around.
“I don’t think prior defeats have anything to do with it,” he said.
“Obviously they beat us at the Stadium of Light so we owe them one. But we can’t treat it like a revenge mission.
“We have to treat it like any other game and go in with the same mentality. We know how important it is for the fans and we don’t take it lightly. But we have to play the game and not the occasion.”
Stéphane Sessègnon is due back on Wearside on Friday after coming through Benin’s African Nations Cup qualifier with Ethiopia unscathed.
A game dominated by the home side finished 0-0, with the Black Cats striker starting his marathon journey back from Addis Ababa last night.