STEVE Bruce has warned his first team regulars “five or six” of the fringe men who blitzed Norwich City in the Carling Cup are knocking on the first-team door.
The Black Cats boss is also ready to spend again before the transfer window slams shut, confirming Egypt international defender Ahmed Al-Muhammadi is set to sign on a season-long loan.
Bruce says the 21-year-old right-back, currently with Egyptian side Ennpi, is “one for the future”.
With John Mensah set to finally sign a season-long loan from Lyon before the end of the week – and Bruce not ruling out further signings before the end of the month – he has plenty of selection dilemmas to ponder before the trip to Stoke on Saturday.
He said: “The boy Muhammadi could be coming in. We are looking at that at the moment, but it will be a loan deal, a season-long loan deal. He would be one for the future, I would say.
“John Mensah is waiting for his Visa to be stamped. We hope to bring him to the club over the next two or three days.
“Whether we go for anything else as well – we will see.
“I already have plenty of options, as people can see. I have only been here for two months, and the longer you see the squad the better it is.
“All of the players have come to the party in some way or another and asked a few questions. There are five or six knocking on the door big style to try and get in the team.” Andy Reid enhanced his chances of a starting role with two excellent goals in last night’s 4-1 win, while goalkeeper Craig Gordon made a terrific return to action with two fine saves in the first half.
However, it was the form of Irish midfielder Reid – who shed nine kilos during a summer fitness drive – which really pleased Bruce.
He added: “No-one ever doubted his ability, but the one thing you have been able to level at him over the years was his physical condition.
“Fair play to him, he has done it - I will not take the credit for it.
“He has worked, trained hard and kept to the diet.
“We all know what to do but it is very, very difficult in practice.”
Reid was one of the stars as Sunderland safely negotiated the first hurdle of what the manager hopes will be a long involvement in the Carling Cup.
Bruce said: “We are one of the Premier League clubs, so of course we want to do as well as we can. It is always nice to get through - that is what we were here for.
“Some of the players are clearly itching to be in the first team and they did all I asked of them.”
Bruce eased fears about Fraizer Campbell’s fitness after the striker was involved in a nasty collision with Norwich loan goalkeeper Ben Alnwick in the closing stages of the match.
The England under-21 forward – a lively presence throughout – was substituted holding his shoulder, but Bruce reckons he will be available for the weekend’s game at Stoke, saying: “Fraizer is OK.”