O'Neill full of praise for Kilgallon

Sunderland manager glad defender has stepped back up to the first team amid club's injury crisis

The Sunderland manager, Martin O'Neill, has praised defender Matt Kilgallon for taking his chance in the first team when it came along.

The 28-year-old looked to be heading for the exit door at the Stadium of Light following the summer arrivals of John O'Shea and Wes Brown from Manchester United to add to a squad that already included Titus Bramble and Michael Turner.

However, with Bramble and Turner both injured, Kilgallon found himself on the substitutes' bench for the Premier League game with the leaders Manchester City on 1 January, and when Wes Brown succumbed to a groin problem, he was thrust back into the limelight, and has been there ever since.

O'Neill, who replaced Steve Bruce as manager last month, said: "I hadn't seen very much of him, other than little bits in training, of course. He got the opportunity the other week when Wes Brown got injured. He went on to the field and he has acquitted himself very well so far in the games.

"I think he is just pleased to be involved at this minute where perhaps he didn't have involvement before.

"Now, that's fine. I have been at football clubs where players maybe didn't get the same sort of involvement before, and then suddenly it happens for them either with the manager there or with someone else in.

"It's the case with not just Matt himself, but with other players. If they feel as if the team has done well and they hadn't been a serious part of it, when they get that opportunity, they might as well give it everything they have got. I think that applies here."

Kilgallon has started the two games since the shock 1-0 win over the leaders – at Wigan Athletic in the league and Peterborough in the FA Cup third round – and has finished on the winning side in both of them.

In the process, he has re-established himself as a genuine first-team player and perhaps given himself a future on Wearside when his days appeared to be numbered after loan spells at Middlesbrough and Doncaster last season.

At one point, it looked as though he might have been heading out of the club, as former team-mate Nyron Nosworthy did on Tuesday when he joined Championship side Watford on a permanent deal.

As O'Neill assesses his options with the winter transfer window now open, several of the club's younger players could follow Nosworthy this month, although only on loan,with the midfielder Billy Knott and striker Ryan Noble among those being coveted.

Manchester City's on-loan defender Dedryck Boyata, meanwhile, will stay at Bolton for the remainder of the season. As part of the deal agreed in July, parent club City had the option to recall their player midway through the campaign.

With Vincent Kompany starting a four-match suspension and Kolo Touré away at the African Cup of Nations, there was a suggestion that City's manager, Roberto Mancini, might invoke the clause to take the Belgian back to the Etihad Stadium.

However, it is understood that the deadline for City to make that request has already passed and the 21-year-old will remain with Wanderers until the end of the campaign.

Stoke's midfielder Marc Wilson has not given up hope of making the Republic of Ireland squad for this summer's Euro 2012 finals.

Wilson is yet to make a competitive debut for Giovanni Trapattoni's side, despite being selected for several squads.

However, the Co Antrim-born 24-year-old, whose cause may not have been helped by a series of withdrawals at a time when the Italian was less than happy with the failure of several players to report for duty, insists he has no regrets about declaring his allegiance to the Republic.

Wilson told Stoke's official website: "I have always seen myself as a Republic of Ireland player. I supported them when I was growing up and if I have to continue to bide my time and wait for my chance to come along, I am happy to do that.

"The players and the gaffer have done a great job there, so I can't complain about it really.

"I would love to play for them, though, one day and I have made that clear before a number of times. Hopefully, my time will come in the future.

"I would love to try to be a part of the squad for the European finals, but if that doesn't happen, then I will keep working hard here at Stoke and try to earn a spot in the Ireland team."

The New Northern Ireland manager, Michael O'Neill, is aware of Wilson's eligibility, but the player insists there is no turning back.

"There is no way I would switch to Northern Ireland, though, now," he said.

"I made the decision a few years ago without having my head turned by anybody, and I am sticking by that. It is something I am comfortable with."

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