Sam Allardyce says Wes Brown must use all his experience to overcome a five-month hiatus, if he is called into action at Everton tomorrow.
Sunderland boss Allardyce is sweating on the fitness of first-choice central defenders John O’Shea and Younes Kaboul after both sustained injuries in last weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby victory.
Allardyce is hopeful that at least one of O’Shea (hamstring), Kaboul (calf), Ola Toivonen (groin) and Fabio Borini (ankle) will be available for the trip to Goodison Park, with the club’s medical staff making a late decision on the quartet’s fitness after training today.
But if O’Shea and Kaboul miss out, then Allardyce will have little choice than to use Brown and Sebastian Coates in the heart of his back four - the same double-act which helped Sunderland to three points at Everton last May.
Brown has not played competitively since that 2-0 win after being handed a new one-year contract in June with a view to being an emergency option.
Allardyce said: “Wes is okay. I spoke to him and he said he’s ready to go in, if he’s needed. If we need him, what Wes has to do is draw on the enormous experience he has in his career to go out against Everton and do what he normally does.
“If he plays well enough, gets us a clean sheet and helps us win the game, then I can’t see me changing it the week after, that’s for sure!
“If he uses his experience, we should be pretty solid as a team when we’re not in possession.”
With rookie centre-half Tom Beadling on the comeback trail from a broken ankle, the only other option for Allardyce in defence would be to redeploy ex-Everton man Jack Rodwell. Allardyce’s predecessor Dick Advocaat had contemplated using Rodwell in his boyhood position of centre-half.
after the 24-year-old has struggled in midfield since his £10million move from Manchester City more than a year ago.
But Allardyce wants to see Rodwell paying back Sunderland’s big money investment in the middle of the park and revive a career which has stalled since he left Everton.
“It’s such a long time since he played centre-back, that we’d have to be really struggling in terms of centre-halves available to put him there,” said Allardyce.
“If we’re going to play him centre-half, we need to put him there in a lot of the training sessions and see whether he feels comfortable there and then talk to him to see if he’s okay taking that challenge on in a Premier League game.
“Just getting Jack Rodwell playing is my big challenge.
“Can I succeed in getting Jack in the team? Can I get him to make a big contribution?
“He’s a big signing for Sunderland football club and should be a signing who imposes himself with his ability, experience and energy.
“He should be an absolute regular, but unfortunately for him and the football club, he hasn’t been able to achieve that just yet.”