O’Neill said: “Liam Ridgewell said to me some months ago that he felt that last season’s squad was so wafer-thin that some younger players in the side, including himself, could’ve done with missing a week or so.
“Not that anyone wants to miss matches. Someone asked whether I’d rotate as much as Rafa Benitez but I just think he’s earned the right to.
“If our squad got bigger at some stage then we’d have to rotate, maybe not to the same degree. Players want to play.”
O’Neill continued: “Steven had played all the games so far and by his own admission he hasn’t reached the heights of last season. But there are opportunities there for all and sitting out a game or two I don’t think does anyone any harm at all.
“He was left out, or his was substitute, in a game or two last season. I’m not so sure Steven or anyone would take it as a sleight. I’m sure he would want to get back to the form he displayed last season as quickly as possible.”