Niall Huggins has been ruled out for a minimum of three months meaning the summer signing is unlikely to feature for the rest of the year.
The 20-year-old has made four appearances in all competitions this season providing intense rivalry for places at right back with Northern Ireland international Carl Winchester. Lee Johnson revealed the extent of the injury and his disappointment when he spoke to the Northern Echo.
Johnson said: “Huggins is a bad one unfortunately, it’s bad news. Three months minimum out. He’s got the onset of a fracture. He’s got a history of stress fractures and he’s got the onset of one so that’s a tough one to take especially for the lad. You feel for him because he’s done so well.
“He’s such a good player and he’s been set back like that so we’ll wrap around him, look after him and make sure that three months is spent doing something progressive for his future.”
The Black Cats have made a strong start to the season and the healthy competition for places within the squad has played a key role in that. There is a lot of pressure on the club and Johnson to deliver promotion this term and the supporters will be hoping that the loss of Huggins will not have too much of an impact on that push.
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It is a crushing blow for Huggins, especially considering that it is an injury that he has had before. Hopefully the Sunderland medical team can find a breakthrough that his previous club Leeds United could and the 20-year-old returns in the best shape of his life come January.
Carl Winchester can feel a lot more comfortable about his place in the side with Huggins on the treatment table but it would be interesting to see where Johnson would turn if the Northern Irishman picked up a knock. Huggins has a contract running until the summer of 2025 and therefore he has plenty of time to ensure he recovers properly and can get back to his best in the second half of the campaign.