Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill is confident that John Egan has the character to bounce back from his double leg-break.

The young defender will undergo surgery this morning after returning to the north-east when the horrific injury cut short his loan spell with the Bantams.

The Black Cats academy product fractured the tibia and fibula in his right leg after landing awkwardly during City’s clash with Plymouth Argyle on Tuesday night, in what was his fourth outing for the club.

Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Egan spent the night at Bradford Royal Infirmary before moving on Wednesday to Darlington’s Woodlands Hospital, where he will have his leg pinned.

The 20-year-old, who lost his father – retired gaelic footballer John Egan senior – earlier this year, will be ruled out for the rest of the season after earning rave reviews since arriving at Valley Parade.

O’Neill admits Egan is despondent after visiting the centre-half in hospital.

“I went to see him in hospital on Wednesday and it’s just really bad luck for the lad,” said the Sunderland manager.

“He was doing exceptionally well for Bradford and he’s had a tough old year.

“Of course, he was very down on Wednesday. Maybe it was the journey from Bradford hospital to Darlington, but he was in some pain. But he’s a real fighter and he’ll come through it.”

Egan made three appearances for Sunderland’s first team during pre-season and was one of only four members of Kevin Ball’s development group to be handed a squad number by O’Neill.

The defender, who spent month-long spells with Crystal Palace and Sheffield United last season, was an unused substitute in September’s Capital One Cup tie at MK Dons, with several Football League clubs vying to take him on loan.

But Bradford were successful in their pursuit, with Egan helping Phil Parkinson’s side to three clean sheets in four outings.

O’Neill said: “I gave him a squad number at the start of the season, almost as much for attitude as anything else. He’s got a fantastic attitude to do really well.

“He wanted the opportunity to go out on loan and there were a number of clubs interested, but Bradford really wanted him.

“Now suddenly this has happened. But I don’t think he can look back. He’s got to look forward and remain confident that he’ll recover.”