STEVE BRUCE is trying to rush through a deal to sign Bolo Zenden in time for the Dutchman to feature against his former club Liverpool tomorrow.

The Sunderland manager is facing a left-back crisis and is ready to call on the 33-yearold who has been training at Sunderland’s Academy for the past fortnight.

Bruce has been impressed by the fitness of the ex-Middlesbrough midfielder but earlier suggested that discussions over a potential deal were scheduled to take place after this weekend’s meeting with Rafa Benitez’s titlechasers.

But a lack of options on the left side of defence has prompted the Black Cats manager to try and push through an 11th hour deal to secure the free transfer.

Kieran Richardson’s red card against Manchester United means that he is suspended, while George Mc- Cartney is struggling with a foot injury. John Mensah had been expected to deputise but the Ghana international has picked up a thigh strain and Paulo Da Silva has just returned from international duty with Paraguay.

If terms can be agreed, the Dutch international’s versatility would offer Bruce cover.

Bruce had earmarked Zenden as offering a potential option in midfield after the manager admitted that he had trimmed his squad too close to the bone during the transfer window.

Zenden’s move to Anfield from Boro saw him revert from central midfield to a more accustomed left wing position, although a cruciate injury restricted his impact on Merseyside.

He made only 23 appearances, scoring twice and his final game for the Reds came in their 2-1 defeat to AC Milan in the 2007 Champions League Final.

Bruce will have noted Zenden’s ability to operate as a left wing-back for Barcelona and Sunderland’s dearth of defensive cover could see the Dutchman make a suprise return to Premier League action after he became a free agent in the summer after leaving Marseille.

Sunderland reserve goalkeeper Jordan Pickford last night made his England Under-16s debut in their opening fixture of the Sky Sports Victory Shield against Wales U16s.