MIKE DODDS has admitted there is no like-for-like replacement for Jack Clarke within the current Sunderland squad – and is hoping the Black Cats’ attacking talisman will be available for this weekend’s game at Norwich City.

Clarke was forced to sit out Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Swansea City after suffering an ankle injury in the previous weekend’s defeat to Birmingham City.

The 23-year-old was badly missed, with Sunderland lacking creativity as they struggled to carve out clear-cut chances for large periods of their defeat to the Swans.

Dodds accepts his side, who started with Callum Styles on the left-hand side and both Jobe Bellingham and Abdoullah Ba playing off Nazariy Rusyn, were not at their best at the weekend.

However, with Clarke having scored 15 league goals already this season, Sunderland’s interim boss accepts it is pretty much impossible to replace the winger.

“I won’t allow Jack to be used as an excuse,” said Dodds. “Jack is not just a good player for us, he's probably the best player in the league.

“We're talking about one of the best players in the league, so you are never replacing Jack Clarke. But one thing I will say, and I think this is really important, when Jack Clarke came to the football club, he wasn't the Jack Clarke he is now. I think that's an important message.


“We have to make sure that message is really clear with Romaine (Mundle), Abdoullah, Naz. I appreciate there will be frustration among the fans and I wish I could fast forward time, but Jack Clarke when he came to the club wasn't the Jack Clarke he is now.

“That's a really important message people need to, not understand because they're fans and want to win games of football, but from where I'm sitting, we have to make sure we work with the other players to get another Jack Clarke.”

In the shorter term, Dodds is hoping Clarke will be able to resume training this week with the aim of being able to feature in Saturday’s game at Carrow Road. The winger was due to be reassessed this morning, with Dodds continuing to hope his ankle issue is not too severe.

“That’s what I’ve been told,” said the Sunderland boss “He's raring to go. He's a robust boy, since he's come in, he's hardly missed any football. He rarely misses training, hence the reason we thought he'd be available (for the Swansea game), but for whatever reason, that hasn't happened.”