Aiden McGeady is available to start Sunderland’s do-or-die League One play-off semi-final showdown with Lincoln after the timely resolution of a contractual issue.
Reports had suggested a clause in the 35-year-old Republic of Ireland international’s deal meant a 30th league start of the campaign against the Imps would automatically trigger another 12 months at the Stadium of Light unless he waived his right to the extension.
However, head coach Lee Johnson, while declining to go into detail, has revealed the Glasgow-born midfielder can be used from the off on Saturday, and hinted that he has done just that.
Johnson said: “It’s difficult for me to reveal contract scenarios in that sense just because it’s not my place. It’s not fair on the player, more than anything.
“All I will say is that Aiden McGeady has been top throughout my tenure. He understands the situation and he’s proved his class yet again.
“He goes into this game wanting to do well for the football club and for me, it just cements both him being a quality human and a quality professional, and that I’ve got the opportunity to pick him.”
Former Celtic, Spartak Moscow and Everton winger McGeady, who had been frozen out by previous boss Phil Parkinson, made his 29th league start of the season in the 2-0 first leg defeat at the LNER Stadium on Wednesday evening, when the Black Cats left themselves with a mountain to climb in the return.
Johnson admitted the game, which will take place in front of a home crowd of 10,000, is the biggest of his managerial career to date but insisted he would send out his team to play without fear.
He said: “We’re still in it. I suppose in one sense, you’re going into it with no fear because effectively you’re the underdog – and probably the underdog for the first time in the whole of this season at this football club – because of the scoreline with 94, 95 minutes to go plus extra time.”
Lincoln will have keeper Alex Palmer fit after he missed the first leg under concussion protocols – emergency loan signing Josef Bursik deputised ably in his absence – and manager Michael Appleton is targeting nothing other than victory.
Appleton told Lincolnshire Live: “I said to you in the week, we had to have the mindset of winning both games. If you do that, you give yourself the chance of getting through.
“We’ve got a very good away record, the best in the league. Hopefully that will continue on Saturday. We’ll go there and try and win the game.”