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O’Neill to run rule on fringe men

SUNDERLAND boss Martin O’Neill is determined to hang on to his key players as he plans a bright future on Wearside.

O’Neill is yet to sit down with owner and chairman Ellis Short to discuss his summer rebuilding plans, and expects to do so as the current season draws to a close.

However, while he knows which areas he would like to strengthen, he wants to retain the key men who have driven the recovery he has prompted since his arrival at the Stadium of Light in December.

O’Neill said: “I’m happy to say the owner agrees with me that we want to keep our very best players at the club because we are looking to build something here and move forward. You don’t tend to do that if you are selling your best players.

“We have a squad in a process of development. We have a lot of work to do, and I think it is clear that we need to strengthen.”

The retention of star man Stephane Sessegnon in particular will be a priority for the Black Cats.

Sessegnon has been touted as a potential target for Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain amid rumours that he has not settled in the north-east.

Muamba can return: Coyle

Fabrice Muamba may not be dancing down the street just yet but it would not surprise Bolton boss Owen Coyle to see the midfielder back on a football pitch reasonably soon.

Muamba was released from hospital on Monday, a month after he suffered a cardiac arrest at White Hart Lane.

The 24-year-old is now spending time with fiancee Shauna and son Joshua as he continues his recovery, and Coyle was happy to report Muamba is in good spirits after talking to him yesterday.

The Trotters manager said: “It was great to hear from him and he sounded terrific. Of course, that’s a huge boost given where he’s come from. We’ve all seen the sad events in Italy.”

On Saturday, Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini passed away after also suffering a heart attack on the pitch.

A leading heart expert has predicted Muamba could be back playing in six months, something Coyle refused to rule out.

The Scot said: “Knowing Fabrice and how much of a battler he is, it wouldn’t surprise me if he comes back.”