O'Neill glad he's got Bridge and Kyrgiakos at Sunderland
15:15 GMT, 29 March 2012
Martin O'Neill admits his Sunderland side might not have been able to cope had he not dipped into the loan market in January.
The Ulsterman swooped at the end of the winter window to bring in defenders Wayne Bridge and Sotirios Kyrgiakos until the end of the season after using the bulk of his first two months on Wearside to assess where his resources might be most stretched.
In the event, he got it just right with both men playing key roles in recent weeks in the face of a minor injury crisis.
Taking his chance: Wayne Bridge has been enjoying a run in the Sunderland team
O'Neill said: 'I am very pleased that we took them on board and just delighted to have them within the squad because they have made a contribution.
'I am just very pleased. If we hadn't taken them on, I would have been very concerned. I am not so sure we would have been able to have cope.'
Bridge, of course, will have to endure a further brief spell of inactivity this weekend with the Black Cats heading for his parent club Manchester City on Saturday.
The 31-year-old full-back, who cost City 12million when he joined from Chelsea in January 2009, is ineligible to play against his parent club as they attempt to drag themselves back to the top of the table.
He has made eight appearances to date for the club, the last five of them consecutive starts, having previously played just once for Roberto Mancini's men this season in the Carling Cup.
Filling in: Sotirios Kyrgiakos has started the last three games for the Black Cats
Bridge has got his chance because of Kieran Richardson's calf injury, while 32-year-old Greek international Kyrgiakos, who joined the club from German outfit Wolfsburg, has started the last three games because of problems for John O'Shea and Phil Bardsley.
O'Shea's missed the 2-0 defeat at Blackburn with a hamstring injury and hen limped out of the 3-1 win over QPR with a calf strain, while Bardsley missed the latter through illness.
With Wes Brown and Titus Bramble having been missing for some time, O'Neill has been grateful to have experienced men available to him after having to ask midfielders Craig Gardner and Jack Colback to line up at full-back earlier in his reign.
Good business: Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill
Further up the field, the returns of Stephane Sessegnon and skipper Lee Cattermole from suspension have also strengthened his hand as he prepares for a run-in which now amounts to eight league games following Tuesday night's disappointing FA Cup quarter-final replay defeat by Everton.
He said: 'But we have that little competition for places which perhaps in the past, we maybe haven't had.
'I am not saying it is phenomenal at the moment, but with good players coming back, that's obviously good news for us.'
Colback missed the game in midweek following the birth of his first child, a daughter, and he will be available as Sunderland attempt to complete an unlikely double over title hopefuls City having won the reverse fixture 1-0 on New Year's Day through substitute Ji Dong-won's late strike.
Cattermole's return from the four-match ban he collected after a costly 1-1 derby draw at Newcastle also represents a boost, although O'Neill knows the nature of his game means it may not be long before the combative midfielder is absent again.
The manager said: 'We have had to battle without him – we have done it before, and who knows, we might have to do it again. “But I am pleased he is available for us anyway.'