As Sunderland aimed to level the score in the second half against the leading Championship team, Leicester, head coach Tony Mowbray made a total of five substitutions, one of them involving a full-back.
The sight of Dennis Cirkin returning to the Black Cats’ bench at the King Power Stadium was a welcome one, as he had been sidelined for seven games due to a hamstring injury. However, it remained uncertain how much of an impact the 21-year-old could have. Cirkin, who had been a starter in Sunderland’s first five league matches this season, had recently played for the under-21s in a closed-door friendly against Hibernian just a day before the 1-0 loss to Leicester. There was also the option for him to participate in the under-21s game against Tottenham at Eppleton CW on Friday, as he was regaining full fitness
Nonetheless, Cirkin’s brief appearance against Leicester, coming on for Niall Huggins in the 64th minute, indicated that he was back in contention for the first team. He provided an extra attacking dimension down the left flank. A low cross from Cirkin, 13 minutes before the end, nearly found Chris Rigg in the box, but it was intercepted by Leicester’s center-back, Wout Faes. In addition, the Sunderland full-back had a late opportunity when he sent Abdoullah Ba’s pass over the bar from inside the penalty area.
All in all, this performance was promising, particularly considering Cirkin’s strong start to the season after facing multiple injury setbacks the previous year. Niall Huggins, who had his own share of injury issues, had performed well in Cirkin’s absence in recent weeks. Nevertheless, the competition for the left-back position, with Aji Alese also making progress, is a positive development from Mowbray’s perspective.
Cirkin had demonstrated his attacking prowess last season, scoring five goals in 28 Championship appearances, and had also worked on improving his defensive skills. He had shown versatility in playing in both a back four and a back three, which could prove valuable later in the season.
Based on his performance against Leicester, Cirkin appears to be a contender to start in the upcoming fixture against Norwich at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, as Sunderland seeks to bounce back from three consecutive defeats.