Under-23 Coach Latest To Leave Sunderland?
Andy Welsh, Sunderland's Under-23 coach is on the verge of leaving his position at the club to take up a first team position at Wigan Athletic.
A key figure in the set-up at the Academy of Light, Welsh has held his post since October 2015, and has been linked with the Latics for a few months. It's thought he held off his departure until such time as new 'Chief Football Officer' Simon Wilson arrived in his new role and settled in.
Welsh knows Wigan boss Warren Joyce well from their days coaching in Manchester and it's rumoured the Lancashire-based club will pay Sunderland compensation for luring him to the North West.
Sunderland's Under-23 side currently sit sixth in Premier League 2, and have won five and drawn five of their fourteen fixtures this season.
The move is a step up for the 54-year-old who takes his first leap into first team coaching duties at the DW Stadium.
His task will not be an easy one with Wigan currently languishing fourth from bottom in the Championship and facing a relegation battle of their own. Will Grigg is no longer on fire and his sterile season has seen the Latics score the fewest number of goals in the division.
But, Wigan have a cup trip to Manchester United to enjoy this weekend and have found some form with a run of three wins in their last trio of matches.
Welsh has seen a number of his Under-23 side reach the fringes of the Sunderland first team this season and he takes with him some inside knowledge on their prospects.
George Honeyman is the latest to have made his full Premier League debut and has impressed in his two first team showings in the last fortnight. The 22-year-old has already been linked with a move to Welsh's new club in the January window, though David Moyes is thought to be considering his first team chances and may be pondering a new deal for the Prudhoe-born midfielder whose contract expires in the summer.
Several other academy players are about ready to graduate but will find their senior chances limited at the Stadium of Light - notably defenders Tom Robson (aged 21) and Tom Beadling (21), winger Rees Greenwood (21) and forward Carl Lawson (22).
The careers of all four would likely benefit from senior experience in the coming year, so might Andy Welsh return to Sunderland and take some of his ex-young charges with him to Wigan?
Former Scunthorpe and Oldham defender Cliff Byrne, who was on Sunderland's books as a youngster, has been Welsh's deputy and may be set for a step up into the Under-23 hotseat.
Lamine Kone - He's coming back
Lamine Kone will be due back to Sunderland for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur next week.
The Ivory Coast were eliminated from this year's African Cup of Nations at the hands of Morocco this evening, losing 1-0.
The Sunderland defender sat out the Ivory Coast's third match at the tournament and has now missed his nation's trio of group games. Kone has never regained full fitness since he collided with an advertising hoarding and hurt himself during the New Year's Eve thumping at Turf Moor, though he did make this bench for today’s game, which could be an indication of where his fitness is currently at.
Kone's Ivory Coast teammates lost to Morocco and have now given up the African crown they won in 2015. The West African nation were one of the favourites to win the competition with star names like Wilfried Zaha and Wilfried Bony in their line-up.
The Sunderland centre-back will now make his way back to England for an assessment of his current fitness, where he will have to find room in a ludicrously crowded treatment room at Sunderland.
The latest to find himself stuck in there - Victor Anichebe - will now miss much of the next two months' crucial Premier League matches having been ruled out for ten to twelve weeks with knee ligament damage. The Nigerian hitman had only just returned to first team action from a hamstring injury which had kept him out of the side since New Years Eve.
Saturday's opposition boss, Tony Pulis, said after his side had comfortably beaten Sunderland that Anichebe "was a good player on his day" but that his constant injury issues were the reason he wasn't offered a new deal at the Hawthorns in the summer.