AS MUCH as Mike Dodds would love to throw Patrick Roberts and Aji Alese straight back into Sunderland's starting XI, the interim head coach says he has a "duty of care" to exercise extra caution and ensure he doesn't rush the pair back too soon.

Struggling Sunderland need all the help they can get right now and the return of some key players from injury will be a big boost for the Black Cats.

While Jack Clarke is not yet ready to return, Bradley Dack and Corry Evans are both back in full training, while Alese and Roberts are back in contention.

Alese has had his fair share of injury frustrations since joining Sunderland but when fit he's shown his quality, while Roberts has been a key player over the past couple of seasons.

That twinned with Sunderland's form could tempt Dodds into rushing the pair back, but he insists that won't be the case.

Alese has only played twice this season after paying the price for rushing back to feature in the play-offs last season, while Roberts has been out of action since early February.


"Aji has probably had one of those injuries where he's rushed back because of the circumstances we were in," said Dodds.

"I've got so much admiration for that because he was desperate to help us in that play-off game. It's very similar with both Pat and Aji in that they're both training and I appreciate there'll be a clamour for them to play because of what they can bring.

"Believe me, there is no one in the world who wants them out there more than I do. But I do also think there is a duty of care there, it might be that there is some frustration at times when they're not out there but we have to be sensible with both of them."

Alese has only played 22 league games for Sunderland since joining from West Ham but put pen to paper on a new contract earlier this week. Dodds believes Sunderland deserve immense credit for the capture of the defender two years ago.

He said: "Aji's a great example of the positive side of our recruitment, an Under-23 footballer who came in and has done really well for us.

"The frustration for all of us is that we haven't been able to see it over a consistent period of time. I don't think that's anyone's fault, but he's a huge part of the future of the football club. He's got huge potential and it's our and my responsibility to keep pushing him so that he can reach his potential."