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Phil Parkinson confirms Sunderland’s Jordan Willis is facing late fitness test

Phil Parkinson has revealed Sunderland defender Jordan Willis is managing an ongoing knee problem and will need a late fitness test to feature at Gillingham on Saturday, per the Sunderland Echo.

The Black Cats will assess the issue before travelling to Priestfield Stadium this weekend, having had to manage the defender’s patella tendon injury ever since his arrival as a free agent from Coventry City last summer.

Willis has proven an integral aspect of Parkinson’s backline since his arrival at the Stadium of Light but was forced to bench the 26-year-old for Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw at Rochdale, with his absence down to the long-standing knee issue rather than the minor foot injury sustained at Swindon Town.

Should Parkinson risk Willis at Gillingham?

Yes, he has to play

Yes, he has to play

No, he can sit it out

No, he can sit it out

Sunderland managed to call on Willis throughout his debut season in the North East through an injection, but are yet to decide whether or not to risk running the same route in order to avoid any lengthy time off the field.

“Jordan has had a problem since he’s been here with his patella tendon,” Parkinson said. “Last year we got to the stage where he had an injection in it.

“He’s had a scan this week and we’re at the stage where we are assessing whether he needs that again, whether that’s the right thing to do. It’s something that he can get on with but as the games come thick and fast, there are certain days where he does find it uncomfortable.

“They are problematic. There are injections and treatments which you can have to help, but you can only have so many. So, it’s just a case of being careful and we will be guided by our medical team.”

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While Willis proved instrumental to Sunderland’s promotion push last season, starting all 35 of his League One appearances, he is yet to match the same level in his performances this term.

The 26-year-old thrived at Oxford with a 100% tackle success rate, winning five of six aerial duels, completing 80% of his 25 passes and assisting Luke O’Nien’s opening goal, per WhoScored, but only made one tackle, completed 68% of his passes and was dispossessed three times at Charlton.

He again made just one tackle, completed 70% of his passes and made fewer clearances than both Bailey Wright and O’Nien against Portsmouth, while his absence at Rochdale was filled by a solid display from Dion Sanderson with eight clearances, two interceptions, one tackle and an 81% pass success rate.

Willis’ form has thus left Parkinson with an easy decision over who starts at Gillingham, as the Sunderland boss must opt to bench his star defender and allow him time to recover before reaping the rewards of having someone Coventry City manager Mark Robins hailed upon his departure last year.

“With Jordan, it was always a case of shaking hands at the end of the season because he’s been a fantastic servant and we wished him all the best,” he said, via quotes by the Coventry Telegraph. “And then it was his prerogative to choose what he feels is the best scenario for himself. And I wish him all the best.

“He was brilliant for us and I would never wish him anything other than success in his career and in his life. He’s a great kid, really good lad.”

AND in other news, Phil Parkinson has been urged to start a Sunderland star who “has a bit of everything”.

Article title: Phil Parkinson confirms Sunderland’s Jordan Willis is facing late fitness test

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