SUNDERLAND have been dealt an injury blow with the news that full-back Niall Huggins face three months on the sidelines.

Huggins, 20, withdrew from Wales Under 21’s squad during the international break with a back injury and it’s been revealed that the damage is worse than the club would have hoped for.

Manager Lee Johnson said: “Huggins is a bad one unfortunately, it’s bad news. Three months minimum out.

“He’s got the onset of a fracture. He’s got a history of stress fractures and he’s got the onset of one so that’s a tough one to take especially for the lad. You feel for him because he’s done so well.

“He’s such a good player and he’s been set back like that so we’ll wrap around him, look after him and make sure that three months is spent doing something progressive for his future.

Sunderland are expected to welcome back fellow full-back Dennis Cirkin who’s missed recent games due concussion and will fill the left-back void.

Huggins, who signed for the club in the summer from Premier League side Leeds United, will be given some time off before he begins rehabilitation back to full fitness.

Johnson added: “We’ve give him a few days off. I didn’t want to patronise him. It’s part of football, it’s part of the game and he’s been through it before.

“We will see him. We will put our arm around him and make sure we put our arm around him. We like him.

“He’s done really well. He’s long term, he’s got a big long contract, a four year one.

“I think that proves that he’s our type of player so in the big picture, it won’t seem like a long time but it will be painful for him at the moment having come in and done so well.”

Meanwhile, Luke O’Nien, who went for an x-ray last week for a suspected rib injury he picked up in the win over Lincoln City, will be available for the weekend’s trip to Gillingham.

“He’s alright, I expect him to be fit and to play” said Johnson.

“It was just bruising in the end, not a fracture. I’ve got away with one there.”