PATRICK van Aanholt’s premature return to first-team action was a major throw-of-the-dice that paid off, admits Gus Poyet.
Van Aanholt was originally pencilled in to return to full training tomorrow after more than two months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury which had required surgery.
But with Sunderland short on specialist full-backs, Poyet took a gamble on van Aanholt’s fitness by putting him straight back into the starting XI to face Leeds United in the FA Cup third round clash.
Poyet reaped the rewards from chancing his arm, with van Aanholt netting his first Sunderland goal in the 1-0 win and coming through the full 90 minutes unscathed.
“I decided on Friday. It was a big decision, a massive decision,” said Poyet.
“If something happened to Patrick during the game, you would all be killing me, which I understand.
“I’d take it, because it was a big decision.
“It was as simple as he was ready to come back to fully train in contact.
“Everything he had to do to come back and play football was tomorrow at 10am.
“So 24 hours before, we thought it was an incredible risk and it was a decision with the support from the medical staff, and especially with the player concerned.
“I know some people will say he played without training. No, he’s been training for two months, but the difference is he’s been training with the physios. Not against a player.”
While van Aanholt lasted the duration with a man-of-the-match display, both Jack Rodwell and Ricky Alvarez were forced off during Sunderland’s progression into the fourth round of the cup.
Rodwell had felt a niggling problem with his groin / hamstring during New Year’s Day’s clash at Manchester City and when he experienced it again during the first half, he came off as a precaution.
However, it is not thought to be anything serious and he should be available for next weekend’s visit of Liverpool.
Alvarez came off at half-time through illness, with goalkeeper Vito Mannone - who would have started - also missing after being taken sick on Saturday morning.
But with Wes Brown and Billy Jones rested, Sunderland due to learn the extent of Lee Cattermole’s groin injury over the next 48 hours, and Anthony Reveillere back in training tomorrow, Poyet is hoping to have a near full-strength squad available to face Liverpool.
“I think Wednesday, depending on Jack tomorrow, I think we’re going to be all training, which is perfect for me,” added Poyet.