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Chronicle Live
James Hunter

Alex Neil explains Dennis Cirkin's absence from this month's England U20 squad

Alex Neil has revealed that Dennis Cirkin stayed on Wearside rather than join up with the England U20 squad during the international break - with the blessing of Young Lions' boss Andy Edwards. Left-back Cirkin was named in the U20 squad along with his Sunderland teammate Dan Neil last month, ahead of the U20 Elite Programme games against Poland in Bielsko-Biala, and then against Germany at Chesterfield.

But while Neil joined up with the squad as planned, coming on as a sub against Poland and then starting against Germany, there was no sign of Cirkin in either matchday squad. And Neil has now explained that Sunderland contacted the England set-up to ask that Cirkin be allowed to miss this round of fixtures, given that the former Spurs man has started every one of Sunderland's games since the turn of the year.

"Dennis has done a lot recently," he said. "We liaised with Dennis and with England, and they wanted to call him up but we felt it would be beneficial for him - given the remaining games - that he could maybe take a bit of a break off this one, and have a bit of a rest.

READ MORE: Alex Neil rejects 'seven cup finals' analogy but insists Sunderland understand what is at stake

"That was reasoning behind that."

When Neil took over in February, he pointed out that one of the reasons behind the club's post-New Year slump in form was that a number of younger players looked jaded after playing a large number of games. Cirkin, who is in his first year of senior action, was one of those players but with no natural cover for the 19-year-old, he has been unable to rest him.

And with that being the case - and with seven crucial games ahead in the League One run-in - Neil felt that it was better that Cirkin was given a breather during the international break rather than potentially be involved in two additional matches with the U20s.

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