Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has hinted that youngster Jack Colback could be given the nod to start against Arsenal this weekend.
Bruce has seen his selection options decimated recently and that number has increased with the news that 34-year-old midfielder Boudewijn Zenden is now unavailable for a few weeks.
The Dutchman tweaked his calf in the warm-up before last weekend's 2-0 defeat to Everton and he will now have a stint on the sidelines, joining the likes of Nedum Onuoha (calf), Fraizer Campbell, Michael Turner, David Meyler, Craig Gordon (all knee) and Danny Welbeck (hamstring) on the busy treatment table.
Bruce is keen to freshen his side up and now believes the time could be right to give Colback, who had a two-month loan spell with Ipswich earlier in the season, a chance to impress.
Colback performed well at left-back against Blackpool and the Black Cats boss is mulling over the option of giving him a midfield berth for their tricky-looking clash against title-challenging Arsenal.
Freshen things up
"I would love to be able to freshen it up and bring a few in to give us that impetus again, but I can't," he told the club's official website.
"Jack might get a run-out in the middle of the park. He did really well at Blackpool at left-back so maybe it's time for him.
"I've got to give a big pat on the back to the squad who've played relentlessly week in, week out.
"But I've never had the opportunity to threaten anyone with their place in the team. The biggest weapon a manager can have is competition for places.
"When you're without nine, who were out yesterday, then it becomes very difficult for everyone concerned, especially a manager.
"Arguably six or seven of those would be playing on Saturday if they were fit. It's crying out to be freshened up - everyone would agree with that.
"But, at this moment, I can't so we have to get on with the lads we've got who have battled on fantastically well even though some of them are on their knees from the amount of games they've played.
"That's why the big teams rotate. I've tried to keep bubbling along. But, ultimately, you know eventually it will catch up with you in this league."