Fitness first for Kieran Richardson

FITNESS AIM .. Sunderland Manager Steve Bruce speaks to Kieron Richardson at the club's pre-season training camp.

FITNESS AIM .. Sunderland Manager Steve Bruce speaks to Kieron Richardson at the club's pre-season training camp.

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KIERAN RICHARDSON hopes Sunderland are given the run-around here in Germany tonight as he plays catch-up in the fitness stakes.

Richardson missed the final six games of last season with a broken leg that ruined his ability to remain in peak condition over the summer.

But the 26-year-old got vital minutes under his belt in both Sunderland’s pre-season outings against York City and Arminia Bielefeld and he will feature again when the Black Cats face Hannover 96 tonight.

Richardson expects Sunderland to be given a stern test, which should force Bruce’s men to cover the ground in order to live with last season’s fourth-placed Bundesliga outfit.

The ex-Manchester United man told the Echo: “Everyone’s expecting a tough test after they finished fourth in the German League last season.

“The Bundesliga’s a strong league. You can see that when the likes of Man United play Bayern Munich in the Champions League. They’re strong sides.

“It’ll be a hard game, but the main thing for us is to get our fitness levels up. The better the sides we’re playing against, the more running we’ll have to do.

“You don’t want to play teams you’ll beat 6-0 because you’re not going to get anything out of it.

“You want opponents where you’ve got to work hard to get the ball back.”

Richardson sustained his injury in April’s clash against former club West Brom, with the initial diagnosis suggesting the midfielder had only badly bruised his fibula.

But the injury failed to heal itself and further tests eventually revealed a slight fracture – an injury which forced Richardson to curtail any training over the summer. Richardson said: “It’s been a bit hard for me after being injured for so long, trying to get my fitness back.

“I couldn’t do much over the summer, it was just complete rest.

“So when I came back in, I was starting from scratch really.

“But I’m getting there, getting my fitness up and working hard in training.

“I blocked a shot and they didn’t find the broken bone until quite late.

“It’s one of those things and I’m fully recovered from it now which is good.

“Obviously you want to be out there playing and I wasn’t able to do that for the last six or seven games so it was a frustrating time.”