CHRIS COLEMAN faces a defensive midfielder crisis ahead of today’s trip to Sheffield United and could still overlook one £10m man capable of slotting in and doing a job there.

Jack Rodwell wasn’t even mentioned when Coleman initially described his options to replace Darron Gibson, should the Irishman fail to recover from a groin niggle that forced him off during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with bottom club Birmingham City.

Rodwell has not played since September 20. He has appeared for the Under-23s but since Simon Grayson was replaced the 26-year-old has been building up his fitness away from the ball sessions laid on by Coleman.

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The former Manchester City and Everton midfielder has become disliked by the club’s supporters for failing to find a decent level of football on a consistent basis for the Black Cats, despite being the highest earner at the Stadium of Light.

Now Coleman could actually do with throwing him back into the mix and seeing if he performs against promotion contenders Sheffield United, with Lee Cattermole also missing for a month with a thigh muscle.

“You will have to ask Jack if he has the appetite,” said Coleman after being quizzed on the player. “He is 26, and building wise it is all there. I am sure Simon sat here and said that, they all did right back to Gus (Poyet). It’s up to him to say there’s a challenge there and I will have it.”

“He might have to (play). I might need to say ‘come on Jack, come on, here’s your chance.

“He has had a hamstring injury. He hasn’t been training with us but with the medical team. It has been a gruelling regime for him and I have told him. I told him, he can take this two ways, that he has been punted and we are not bothered, or he can say ‘I am going to be as fit as I have ever been, so if my chance comes I will take it’. That’s down to Jack.

“It’s his responsibility. It’s not mine to make someone say ‘I am ready to play’. It’s self-motivation and it’s as simple as that. I have to get results. It doesn’t matter if I like a player or not. Whoever is ready, whoever wants it, then let’s go.”

Rodwell was one of the country’s most promising midfield talents before leaving Everton in 2012. A frustrating two years at Manchester City clearly dented his confidence and he has never looked like getting back to his best in a Sunderland shirt for a sustained period.

Coleman said: “What happens to Jack will be up to Jack and what he wants to do. What we do know is that Jack needs to be playing football. I won’t be the only manager to have said that.

“Jack is working his socks off at the minute with our medical team and our physios and fitness guys. They are working him hard. We can’t afford any stragglers, we can’t carry anyone.

“We need players here with an appetite who want to play football. Ability-wise it is never in question with Jack. He has to play more football. I don’t care how he does it. He just needs to be on the pitch more. That will be up to Jack.”

Sunderland failed to follow up the home win over Fulham with a second against Birmingham. They fell behind in the 16th minute through Sam Gallagher, who was sent off with 23 minutes remaining, before Lewis Grabban’s 12th of the season five minutes later levelled things up.

That was how it remained and it was another afternoon when Coleman played with three at the back, having enjoyed success with it in recent weeks. Playing that way has seen Sunderland go unbeaten in three matches, but Gibson’s injury means there could have to be a change.

Coleman said: “That formation has served us quite well. Really it is about getting on the pitch, doing things well but it has served us well.

“We might not be able to play the same on Boxing Day because Gibbo has a problem, Paddy McNair will not be ready, Cattermole is injured, so that leaves us with Didier Ndong. Is he ready for 90 minutes? Probably not. That would leave us with Marc Wilson which would leave us without a third centre-half so it could all have an impact. We will wait and see.”

Coleman was disappointed with the outcome against Birmingham. He added: “We all get carried away with climbing out of the bottom three for a week. It wasn’t going to solve our problems long term.

“Look at the table when you climb out of it and it feels good. The one thing with this division is that it can change quickly in this division. I said last week, it was a great to win.

“There are loads of points and challenges to play for but we have to work as hard as we can to keep consistency in our game. Look at the table now it looks more negative than it did this time last week, but this time next week it could be different again. That’s what you hold onto.”