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Aji Alese's Blackburn absence explained & Sunderland's plan for ex-West Ham defender

Sunderland defender Aji Alese <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Sunderland defender Aji Alese (Image: PA)

AJI Alese will play for Sunderland's Under-21s on Wednesday, with Mike Dodds of the belief that the defender would benefit more from a run-out with the youngsters than sitting on the bench as a substitute against Blackburn on Monday.

After a long lay-off, Alese returned to the matchday squad as an unused substitute for the Good Friday win at Cardiff City but was then left out by Dodds for the visit of Rovers.

His absence raised concerns of a fresh setback but thankfully that's not the case. Sunderland's plan is for Alese to play the full 90 minutes for the Under-21s against Huddersfield on Wednesday, and, providing he comes through unscathed, the former West Ham defender would then be expected to return to the first team squad for Saturday's visit of Swansea City,

"I had a good conversation with Aji in terms of where he's at," said Dodds.

"He's going to play for the Under-21s on Wednesday so there's no issue in terms of his training or being fit.

"We just felt a 90 minutes on Wednesday would be perfect for him and then he'll be back in contention for Saturday."

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Alese has endured a rotten 12 months on the injury front. He missed the end of last season and after rushing back for the play-offs, then suffered a recurrence of his thigh injury and was ruled out until the new year. He returned in January but then suffered a fresh setback that sidelined the 23-year-old for a further four months.

Dodds' squad has been bolstered by the return of a number of first team players in recent weeks, with Jack Clarke coming off the bench in the second half of Monday's Blackburn defeat.

Clarke's return is a major boost for the Black Cats, who have won just one of their last nine, though Dodds was struggling to cling to any positives in the immediate aftermath of Monday's humiliating heavy defeat.

"It doesn't feel like it (a boost) right now, I'll be honest with you" said Dodds.

"I think having Jack back, Pat back, Aji isn't a million miles away, the experience of having Dacky around the group, you would hope would propel us in a direction we want to go. But at the moment the performance feels so powderpuff I can't draw on any positives."