SUNDERLAND boss Martin O’Neill will prioritise the purchase of a new left-back this summer after revealing that he does not want to have to play Jack Colback in the role next season.

Colback has slotted in at full-back on a number of occasions during the current campaign, deputising for Kieran Richardson, who is not really a natural left-back himself.

Worried about a shortage of left-footed defenders in his squad, O’Neill sanctioned the capture of Wayne Bridge on deadline day in January, but the former England international has had a limited impact and will return to his parent club, Manchester City, when his loan deal expires.

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As a result, O’Neill has instructed Sunderland’s scouts to compile a shortlist of potential left-back signings as he does not want to be in a position where Colback has to slot back into the role, even though it does not play to his strengths.

“I think I would rather see Jack play in midfield,” said the Black Cats manager. “He has done exceptionally well at full-back, but he seems a midfield player.

“I hope he continues the improvement he has shown.

He was outstanding last week at Aston Villa and once he got into (Saturday’s) game (against Bolton) he was excellent again.

“It was an exquisite pass for the first goal.”

O’Neill has been forced to chop and change his defence for a variety of reasons all season, and would like to have more stability in his backline next term.

“We’ve had to mix and match the whole way through,” he said.

“We had Titus Bramble at one stage, we had Wes Brown, then John O’Shea came in, then he got injured.

“It has been great credit to those who have played at the back that we have kept as many clean sheets as we have.”