PHIL PARKINSON is confident Will Grigg will make a significant contribution to Sunderland’s promotion push in the final three months of the season, and is adamant the striker remains an important part of his plans.

Grigg came close to leaving Wearside on a number of occasions during last month’s transfer window, with a host of clubs in Leagues One and Two offering to take him on loan for the remainder of the campaign.

Sunderland rejected offers from Oxford United and Blackpool because they did not want to loan the Northern Irishman to one of their promotion rivals, while Grigg turned down opportunities to move to Swindon Town and Salford City because he did not want to drop down to League Two.

As a result, the transfer window closed with the 28-year-old still on Sunderland’s books, and while he has not started a league game since early December, Parkinson insists he has not been frozen out of the first-team set-up.

“I think the fact that we didn’t want Griggy to go to any other team in the top half (of the League One table) says everything you need to know, because we thought he could go and score seven or eight goals easily, and we didn't want that to happen,” said the Sunderland boss. “So that itself tells you that we believe that he can have some important moments between now and the end of the season.

“I’ve got to stress to all our supporters that Griggy wasn’t knocking on the door saying, ‘I want to go’. He wants to achieve promotion at this club. He wants people to say that he’s made a contribution.

“So, he really wasn’t knocking on the door and saying, ‘I want to go. I'm not playing. I'm frustrated’, or this, that and the other. He wants to work hard to get his place back in the team, but he's got a challenge to do that.”

While Grigg no longer finds himself battling against Marc McNulty for a first-team spot, he is now up against January signings Kyle Lafferty and Antoine Semenyo as well as established first-choice Charlie Wyke.

The shoulder injury Wyke sustained in last weekend’s defeat at Portsmouth is likely to keep him out of today’s home game with Ipswich Town, meaning there will be an opportunity for someone else to step up.

That is likely to be Lafferty, who has made a substitute appearance in three of the last four games, but Grigg pushed his own credentials with an impressive showing in an internal practice game staged earlier this week.

“Griggy and Lafferty are pushing for an inclusion,” said Parkinson. “We had a practice game on Tuesday, and four of the new players got to play in the shape we want to play in and the way we want to play.

“Both of those two (Grigg and Lafferty) played excellent. Griggy got a goal, and as I’ve said, I’m pleased that he’s still here. With the window closed, he knows he’s here with us. He’s doing extra work every day with Nick Allemby (fitness coach), and we want to get him right up to speed because I do still believe there's some big moments from him between now and the end of the season.”

With McNulty leaving on deadline-day, Parkinson was tempted to make a late push for another striker, but having already recruited Semenyo from Bristol City, he was happy to go with what he had.

“There’s always that thought (to make another signing) in your mind,” he said. “But, equally, we've got options at the top of the pitch. Antoine can play up the top of the pitch, although the Gooch/Maguire role is probably his preferred one. But we also have Lafferty, Grigg and Wyke that can play in that number nine role.

“We're pleased with what we got and, like I keep stressing, football sometimes is not about going and spending a bit more money, going and signing another player. It's working with the players you've got, finding a way of playing and creating a culture within a football club, and that's what we're trying to do.”