PHIL PARKINSON admits a season-ending injury to Arbenit Xhemajli has forced him to reassess his defensive options, but the Sunderland boss regards a deal for an out-of-contract player after tomorrow’s deadline as a more likely prospect than a permanent addition in the next 24 hours.

Xhemajli, a summer signing from Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax, will not play again this term after damaging his cruciate ligaments while on international duty with Kosovo.

With Morgan Feeney also unavailable for up to four months because of a knee injury of his own, Sunderland are light on defensive cover and Parkinson is keen to make an addition to bolster his squad.

However, with the EFL currently involved in discussions over a possible Premier League bailout for clubs in Leagues One and Two, the Black Cats boss accepts it is not an ideal time to be spending money.

So, while the transfer window for contracted players is due to close at 5pm tomorrow, Parkinson will consider keeping his powder dry as he will still be able to sign free agents next week.

The Sunderland boss said: “Obviously, it (Xhemajli’s injury) leaves a gap defensively for us. With Morgan Feeney also picking up an injury, that leaves us light in terms of numbers.

“We have got players who can play at the back – Luke O’Nien and Conor McLaughlin – but it’s something we’re looking at.

“If it’s before Friday, then good, but there are players who are out of contract that are available after Friday as well.

“At the moment, I’d say a permanent deal before Friday was probably unlikely. A permanent deal is more likely for an out-of-contract player next week.

“Like everybody, it’s really strange times in football. We’re waiting for this proposed bailout, to see what level of money is going to be given to us to help run the club.

“It’s very difficult. It’s strange times to be involved in because there are bigger issues as well as bringing players in.”

Xhemajli damaged his knee during a training session with Kosovo Under-21s, with the extent of the problem having become clear after he had a series of scans on his return to the North-East.

Parkinson said: “It’s really frustrating for Arbi and ourselves, but most importantly for Arbi himself. He’s come over and settled in well, in terms of getting to know the lads and getting used to the environment.

“It was an innocuous incident at the end of a training session, but it’s ended up with him getting a very serious injury. Our thoughts are with him. He’s back over with us now and he’s had a scan and seen our specialists.

“We’re going to take good care of him, but we definitely feel for him.”