LEE JOHNSON is considering recalling Jack Diamond and Josh Hawkes to plug gaps within the Sunderland squad over the next month or so – with a view to sending the duo back out on loan later in the season.

Diamond has spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Harrogate Town, while Hawkes has also been playing in League Two with Tranmere Rovers. The pair signed season-long loan deals when they left the Stadium of Light in the summer, but both deals contain a clause that enables Sunderland to recall their player this month.

With his squad having been ravaged by injury in the last month or so, Johnson is minded to bring both Diamond and Hawkes back to Wearside. Diamond’s return would provide some competition for Dan Neil, Elliot Embleton and Alex Pritchard, who are currently playing in midfield, while Hawkes would help cover for the loss of injury victim Nathan Broadhead.

Johnson wants to ensure Sunderland are adequately covered in the next few weeks, but does not want to create a situation where Diamond and Hawkes spend most of the next four months languishing in the Under-23s. Therefore, it he was to recall the duo, he would look to set up an agreement whereby they could return to their current temporary employers later in the campaign.

“It’s (recalling the pair) definitely in our thinking, there’s no doubting that,” said Johnson, who saw his side slip to second in the League One table when Rotherham edged out Bolton 2-1 on Saturday. “We’re exposed in terms of having a lot of key senior players out, so to bring anybody back fit, able to go straight in the squad, who has been performing well and is bright and lively would be a welcome addition.

“Although Sunderland being successful is number one, the secondary factor is to make sure that, if they come back, they will get adequate game time. It might be that we recall them early, and then send them back later. There are a number of options that need to be discussed on that.”

As well as pondering a recall for Diamond and Hawkes, Johnson is also working with sporting director Kristjaan Speakman to try to bring in new signings this month.

Sunderland have held talks with Manchester City over a possible deal for Patrick Roberts, whose current loan deal with French club Troyes has yielded just one senior appearance so far this season. Roberts, who previously spent time in the North-East on loan with Middlesbrough, is keen to return to England now the transfer window has reopened.

The Black Cats have also been heavily linked with a move for teenage defender Trai Hume, who is set to leave Northern Irish side Linfield.

Lincoln and Ipswich have also been credited with an interest in the 19-year-old, who is an attacking right-back who has scored two goals and claimed two assists in his 16 league games this season, but Sunderland’s interest is understood to be at an advanced stage, with officials confident of being able to tie up a deal.

“There is a big chance Trai will not be at the club in January,” admitted former Sunderland striker David Healy, who is currently Hume’s manager at Linfield. “He has come back to our club this season and done everything I hoped he would do. I’ve watched his every game since he was 14 to 17, and I was shocked he didn’t get the opportunity to go across the water before this.”

Johnson has been keen to give youngsters a chance this season, with Benji Kimpioka the latest player to benefit from his faith in youth.

The Sunderland boss challenged Kimpioka to knuckle down earlier this season, and has been delighted with the youngster’s response. As a response, Kimpioka has been promoted to Sunderland’s matchday squad and came off the bench to claim his first League One goal in Thursday’s five-goal thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday.

“Sometimes, young players need a cuddle, but sometimes they need a bit of a kick up the backside to get them going,” said Johnson, whose side are due to return to action at promotion rivals Wycombe on Saturday lunchtime. “His reaction has been good, which is why he finds himself on the pitch at first-team level.

“I’m really happy that he scored (against Sheffield Wednesday). He could actually have had a couple. It’s lovely to see when young players can influence things at first-team level.

"He’s very different – unpredictability is a quality of his, for sure.”