Five games in a row uninvolved, apparently partly due to injury. Now Chris Maguire has broken his fibula, there might be a clearer path for him to at least make the bench. A few quotes from the Sunderland manager:
“We’ve now lost the guy who’s our third top-scorer. You can’t just replace it like that but at least we’ve got options within the squad and it’s now up to the players who play in similar areas to go and take their opportunity.”
Sterling has struggled too since his loan from Tottenham Hotspur, though his problems have been more physical.
He made his debut as a 59th-minute substitute at home to Wimbledon, and has not been seen since. Watching from the Kassam Stadium stands with Maguire, he was unused against Blackpool and missed out on the televised Accrington game with a minor injury.
"He’s just been a little bit unfortunate in terms of having a couple of niggles,” Ross says of the 20-year-old England youth international.
“I think he (Sterling) is enjoying being in the first-team environment every single day and he’ll get opportunities to be involved between now and the end of the season.
“I can’t treat him any differently to any other player in my squad in that respect. You sometimes tumble down the pecking order a little bit if you’ve missed games or training a little bit and it’s about trying to make your way back up again.”
Sterling’s stock has dipped on Wearside, but Maguire’s misfortune offers the chance and the inspiration for a rally.