Sunderland manager Chris Coleman admits he is concerned about Everton loanee Brendan Galloway's development and is surprised that his parent club did not end his stay in the north east and farm him out to somewhere else in the January transfer window.
Galloway and Tyias Browning both joined Sunderland on season-long loans in the summer but, while the latter has managed to become an important part of Coleman's defence, the former has struggled to make any discernible impact under the Welshman or former boss Simon Grayson and has not made an appearance since being afforded a 10-minute cameo against high-flying Wolverhampton Wanderers in December.
Galloway had hoped to leave Sunderland and spend the rest of the season on loan at his former club MK Dons, according to Sky Sports, but Everton decided to keep him in the north east as Coleman's side look to avoid a second relegation in as many seasons.
The former Wales and Fulham boss seemed slightly bemused by the Merseysiders' willingness to see the 21-year-old remain with a team he has little hope of breaking into during what he believes to be a "critical" stage of his development, but he did not rule out bringing Galloway back in from the cold during the business end of the campaign.
"Brendan is a lovely kid and he has been working hard but he has lacked game time. He's here to get game time and he is not getting it," Coleman told the Northern Echo.
"You don't want to waste the boy's time, it is a critical stage for him. We thought maybe Everton would want to take him back, maybe loan him out somewhere else – even in the division below – but that wasn't the case.
"So Brendan is still here, and he is a cracking boy. Who knows, we may need to call on him yet."
Galloway produced a string of encouraging performances when covering for Everton stalwart Leighton Baines a few seasons ago, but an ill-fated loan spell at West Bromwich Albion combined with his travails at Sunderland have significantly weakened his chances of becoming a regular at Goodison Park in the coming years.
The former England youth international was omitted from Coleman's match-day squad as Sunderland suffered a damning 2-0 home defeat by Ipswich Town on Saturday (3 February), and he is unlikely to be named in the travelling party for the trip to Ashton Gate as the troubled Wearsiders take on Bristol City this weekend.