DENNIS CIRKIN is back in light training, although Mike Dodds is still to decide whether to try to restore the defender to the first-team ranks before the end of the season.

Cirkin has suffered an injury-blighted campaign in which a succession of hamstring issues have restricted him to just five Championship starts, the most recent of which was in early September.

The left-back has been pencilled in to return to full training next week, but with just four more games to play, Dodds is weighing up whether a first-team outing would be a beneficial exercise.

The likes of Cirkin, Aji Alese and Corry Evans will no doubt be desperate to get a game under their belt before the summer break, but there is no point risking their long-term fitness just to get them onto the pitch for a match that will mean very little when it comes to Sunderland’s final league position.

“Dennis is back training, but not fully training with the group,” said Dodds, ahead of tomorrow’s game at West Brom. “I think like the other lads who have come back, you don’t want to rush them back.


“The plan is to try and see him before the end of the season, whether that materialises, we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks or so.

“We’ve had that conversation but for Dennis, and Aji as well, knowing they can play 60-90 minutes and going into the summer knowing their body is in a good place will psychologically be important for them individually.

“There are two trains of thought, one is whether it’s worth the risk and if there was a huge risk factor then we wouldn’t and you can see that a little bit with Aji and Patrick (Roberts) - who probably have gone a bit slower than you might have seen earlier in the season.

“At the same time, I do think it’s important for these guys to go into the summer playing and knowing they’re in a good place.”

Like Cirkin, Evans is also closing in on a first-team return, having recovered from the minor setback that followed an increase in his training schedule earlier this month.

“Corry is back training with the group, so he’s in contention,” added Dodds. “He had a little bit of a muscular flare-up, and I think it just wasn’t worth the risk (pushing him further). So, he missed about five days of training with the group, but he’s back now, so hopefully we will see him in one of the squads.”