SUNDERLAND have diffused a club-versus-country row by belatedly releasing defender George McCartney for international duty with Northern Ireland.

McCartney had pulled out of Lawrie Sanchez's squad for the World Cup qualifiers with Azerbaijan today and then Austria on Wednesday - infuriating the national team boss.

Sanchez had threatened to invoke the four day rule on any player failing to play in either match - meaning McCartney would have been ineligible to play for Sunderland against Millwall on Saturday.

However, just hours after Sanchez' threat, Northern Ireland announced the Black Cats full-back - along with Norwich's Paul McVeigh, Crewe's Steve Jones and Portadown's Gary Hamilton - have been recalled to the squad.

None will play against Azerbaijan but all will come into contention for the midweek clash with Austria after joining up with the rest of the squad tomorrow.

The situation had threatened to boil over as an angry Sanchez warned that he was prepared to meet the issue head on. Sunderland were in the thick of things with McCartney apparently sidelined with hamstring trouble.

But Sunderland had a rethink after Sanchez said earlier in the day: "The clubs are not happy. But all international managers have a problem with call-offs whether you are at the top or the bottom.

"It is a bigger problem now because of the rewards in club football. Clubs always want their best players to be available to them. But when we come to World Cup games, FIFA allow me to have priority for these players. The four-day rule is for those clubs, players whatever, who might think 'I will miss this trip and be available for my club', it just takes it out of the equation for them."

Meanwhile, unsettled Thomas Myhre has set his sights on a move away from Sunderland in the New Year.

Despite suggestions from manager Mick McCarthy that Myhre and Mart Poom would be fighting for the No 1 shirt at the Stadium of Light, the Norwegian goalkeeper has struggled to dislodge the manager's first choice.

Myhre made three consecutive Championship starts for the Black Cats at the start of the campaign, with the Estonian ruled out with a back injury, but has since lost his place again.

Now the 30-year-old has had enough of warming the bench and is seeking first team football - with a loan move possibly on the cards before the transfer window opens in January a possibility.

"I was told that we were both considered equal and at the same level. But Poom has since been preferred because of his efforts last season," said Myhre, who has 32 caps for his country.

"Poom has been solid recently. But I must wait until January before anything can happen. Where I end up then, I don't know. I will have to consider the situation carefully but I want to play. Perhaps I can go away on loan, as I did last season when I went to Crystal Palace.

"To go home to Norway is also a possibility but, at the moment, it is just too early to tell."

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