O'Neill to include fringe players in Sunderland run-in

The Black Cats boss is hoping to scope out the potential of his squad as their campaign finishes, claiming age is no boundary for players to stake a claim for the first team

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has revealed that he will be using the final four games of the Premier League season to check on the potential of his fringe players.

The Northern Irishman has secured a mid-table finish in the Premier League, following a disappointing start to the campaign under Steve Bruce.

Sunderland are 37/20 with Sportingbet to beat Aston Villa on Saturday.
By giving opportunities to those players who have only featured on the peripheries this season he hopes to give himself a better understanding of his squad before canvassing the transfer market this summer.

"For us to strengthen, of course, we would have to look at it," O’Neill told the Press Association.

"I wouldn't mind some of the younger players who probably under match conditions, I maybe don't know enough about - of course, I watch them in training every single day here - but I would like to see them maybe get a little bit more match-time.

"How do you approach that with trying to get results at the same time?

"Obviously, I would like anybody who steps into the side to be there on merit, but I do have these considerations to make.

"No matter how young you are or no matter how old you are, you have to deserve to be in the side.

"It's a balancing act at the moment where I have got to just maybe look at the bigger picture."

Although O'Neill was unable to make any serious moves during January, only bringing Wayne Bridge and Sotirios Kyrgiakos in on-loan, he did not bemoan his missed chance, instead complimenting his players’ efforts.

"All we did in the January window was take two players very, very late on loan, so closer to the end of the season, I will start to try to assess the situation," he explained.

"But I have been really pleased with the effort of the team. I have to be pleased with it, it's been a fantastic effort by them.

"When the season ends and you have really got time to consider it, I will be absolutely delighted with it."