TONY MOWBRAY believes Niall Huggins has overcome his injury problems and is capable of playing three games in a week if necessary.
Huggins has been plagued by injuries since joining Sunderland from Leeds United in the summer of 2021, with a string of minor ailments limiting him to just a handful of professional matches prior to the start of the current season.
The York-born defender finished pre-season this summer eager for an opportunity to show he had put his difficulties behind him, and it came when Aji Alese and Dennis Cirkin were injured, opening up a space at left-back.
Huggins has grabbed it with both hands, and he is almost guaranteed to start this evening’s home game against Watford and Saturday’s Wear-Tees derby against Middlesbrough if he keeps healthy.
That hasn’t always been the case, but Mowbray sees no reason why the 22-year-old’s injury problems should resurface, considering the success of his most recent comeback.
“Not once have I seen him say, ‘I need to miss (training) today, this is a bit sore or that’s a bit tight, can I have a day off, gaffer?'” said the Sunderland manager. I’m feeling this or that, but I’ll be fine in a few days’.
“There hasn’t been any of that. He basically puts on his boots and goes out to practice every day, which is a really good sign for us.”
Huggins has played throughout the backline for Sunderland, as well as in midfield during a pre-season game against Hartlepool United this summer.
He seemed to have found a place at left-back, with his head coach impressed by the rapidity with which he adapted to the role.
“He just needs to stay focused and keep doing what he’s been doing,” Mowbray said. And what he has been doing is contributing to the puzzle.
“He does his job where he is asked to do it, fills the part of the pitch he is asked to fill, and he does it well.” He must continue to do so, no more and no less.
“It allows the team to function; you just do your job, which he has done exceptionally well.” I don’t see why he couldn’t do it a few more times before the international break.”