LEE JOHNSON admits he is still to make a decision over whether to retain Jack Diamond for the second half of the season or send the midfielder back out on loan to Harrogate Town.

Diamond signed a season-long loan deal with Harrogate, but Sunderland opted a trigger a recall clause to help plug a gap created by the club’s Covid problems.

The 21-year-old midfielder started Tuesday night’s 3-1 defeat to Lincoln, and is set to remain in the squad for tomorrow’s game at Accrington Stanley.

However, with Sunderland’s Covid and injury situations beginning to ease, Johnson will have to assess the likelihood of Diamond getting regular game time in the remainder of the season if he was to remain as part of the Black Cats’ first-team group.

The Sunderland head coach said: “There’s always opportunities to impress. If Jack Diamond bangs in five goals, then there’s no way he’s going back.

“You’ve always got to take into account that individual’s progression. Jack’s a young player that’s come through our academy, so we’ve got a big responsibility to do what’s right in terms of his development.

“That’s how it will be judged. If there’s game time for him here, then he stays in, but if we feel that game time is going to be restricted or limited in any way and somebody’s offering him more, then we have to conclude that would be the right thing to do. There’s a balance, and it’s difficult.

“Sometimes, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Look at (Elliot) Embleton last year. It bit us on the backside really, but we’ve also got a much better player for his experiences who is now performing really well in a Sunderland shirt. It’s a little bit of a Catch-22 whatever you decide, but that consistency of development for players under 25 is really important.”