Sunderland right-back Niall Huggins has suffered an injury setback ahead of the 2022/23 campaign…
Black Cats boss Alex Neil has confirmed that the full-back has not been involved in training with the first-team squad as he continues to recover from his knock.
He told the Sunderland Echo: “Unfortunately for Niall, he’s not doing pre season with us at the moment.
“He’s still on the way back from his injury, which has obviously been ongoing. He’s come out with us to work with the physios, he’s part of our group and we want him to be involved.
“We just need to make slow progress with Niall, so we can get him in the best nick so that he doesn’t break down. It’s been tough for him. We value him a lot so we want him to get fit as soon as we can, but there’s no rush on it.
“It’s really important we get him back to a point where he doesn’t break down.”
The Black Cats’ head coach will be gutted by this situation because Huggins being unavailable is a blow to his squad heading into the 2022/23 campaign.
Sunderland’s season kicks off later this month as they face the prospect of a first year in the Championship since 2017/18. They will need as many of their players available as possible to give them the best chance of enjoying a successful term in the second tier, which is why the right-back’s injury is a frustrating one.
It leaves the club with two natural options at full-back ahead of the opener against Coventry; Dennis Cirkin and Trai Hume.
Huggins has played in the Premier League – for Leeds – and caught the eye in the EFL Cup for Sunderland last season. He averaged a SofaScore rating of 7.00 in the competition, making 3.5 tackles and interceptions and providing 1.5 key passes per game.
The 21-year-old has, therefore, shown signs of promise at right-back and has the potential to break into the team as he gains more experience at senior level.
However, he is not going to get the minutes he needs whilst he is injured. This means that his knock is stunting his development whilst also leaving Neil short in the full-back department, which is why the Welshman missing pre-season so far is a big blow that will leave the manager gutted.