SUNDERLAND are trying to set up a loan deal for Brighton youngster Alex Cochrane after Denver Hume was ruled out for up to two months following a recurrence of his hamstring injury.

Hume suffered a setback on the training ground this week, with scans revealing a serious hamstring tear, meaning Callum McFadzean is now the only recognized left-back on Sunderland’s books.

Dion Sanderson and Lynden Gooch have slotted in on the left side of the Black Cats defence this season, but Lee Johnson would ideally like to secure a more natural option for the position before the transfer window closes on February 1.

He has initiated talks with Brighton over Cochrane, a 20-year-old who is currently on loan at Belgian second tier side Union SG.

Cochrane has started Union’s last five games, but his deal includes a recall clause that enables Brighton to cut short their arrangement this month in order to loan the youngster elsewhere.

Sunderland will argue that Cochrane’s development would be better served by a spell in League One rather than another five months in the Belgian lower leagues, and crucially, if they are able to agree a deal with Brighton, the defender’s signing will not count towards salary-cap calculations as he is an Under-21.

“I think we have to consider (signing a left-back), absolutely,” said Johnson. “We have a good left-back (McFadzean) and a couple who can play there, but there are so many games, so it has to be a consideration for us.

“Either that, or we have to find one from within our ranks, and I can’t see one there at the moment who is ready to play all the games that we need at the level we need.”

Hume suffered his initial hamstring injury in the 1-0 home defeat to Wigan Athletic under caretaker boss Andrew Taylor, but had gradually worked his way back to fitness.

However, he suffered a recurrence of the problem in training this week, and scans have revealed a serious hamstring tear that could sideline him until mid-March.

“Unfortunately, Denver has had a recurrence of his injury during his rehabilitation,” confirmed Johnson. “It’s bad news on that one. He’s got a grade three hamstring tear, which probably means somewhere between six and eight weeks out.

“I feel for him, first and foremost. He’d worked really hard and got up to top speed, which was good, and we thought he was probably a week or ten days away, but then a very innocuous stretch for a pass that was misplaced meant that the injury ended up recurring. We’ve sent him for a scan, and that’s ended up coming back not good. That’s a shame.”

There is better news when it comes to Luke O’Nien’s recovery from the injury, with the versatile 26-year-old set to be available within a fortnight.

O’Nien will miss Saturday’s trip to AFC Wimbledon and next Tuesday’s home game with Plymouth, but he has an outside chance of featuring in the home game with Shrewsbury on January 23 and should be available for the trip to Ipswich Town on the following Tuesday.

“It’s much better news on Luke,” said Johnson. “There’s always a risk that there could be a recurrence, but what we’ve really got to take on Luke is his confidence levels and how far he’s willing to progress it.

“He’s an interesting character from what I’ve learned so far – he’s quite demanding of his coaches, which is good, and always wants to do more. Obviously, I love that, but we’re having to put the reins on him to protect him.

“He’s been good as gold, and I would hope that if all goes well, then in ten days or maybe two weeks he would be available for selection.”

Carl Winchester is set to make his Sunderland debut in Saturday’s game at the new Plough Lane, having moved to Wearside this week from Forest Green.

“I think people will be surprised with how good a player Carl is,” said Johnson. “I think he’s a player that’s been playing below his level in terms of league standard for the last four or five years.

“I think Cheltenham and Forest Green had in the squad a League One or more probably Championship-quality player.”