DANNY Welbeck stands by to return to Sunderland’s first-team squad at Arsenal tomorrow.
It is the start of what manager Steve Bruce hopes will be the start of a steady stream of players returning from injuries over the next few weeks.
The Sunderland boss will not make a final decision on the on-loan Manchester United striker’s availability until tomorrow.
But the fact that Welbeck is even being considered at all is a testimony to the progress the 20-year-old has made in training over the last few days.
Bruce said: “Danny only returned to training on Tuesday, but the way he has played over the last few days suggests it might not be too soon for him to make the substitutes’ bench this weekend.
“We’ll assess it and make a decision on the day, but he has been looking extremely sharp and, while you don’t want to bring a player back too early, it’s possible he could be ready.
“He was back at Manchester United for a few days for them to assess him and I think he did some training there, too, which would help explain why he’s come back so strongly.”
Welbeck has been out since the start of the year when he pulled up in the 1-0 victory at Aston Villa with what appeared to be a hamstring strain.
It turned out to be a cartilage injury and the forward underwent surgery to repair the damage.
By tomorrow, he will have been out for exactly two months and if he is able to play against the Gunners it will be a major boost for Bruce who will look to involve him more with each passing game.
Both Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell are expected to be involved in a behind-closed-doors Reserve League game against West Ham on Tuesday.
And both could potentially be involved in the Black Cats’ next Premier League game against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light a fortnight on Sunday.
With Michael Turner and Lee Cattermole also targeting returns in the near future, things could finally be looking brighter on the injury front for Sunderland.
Bruce said: “We’ve been without quite a few key players for a long time now and it’s great to think that they are now genuinely starting to make their way back.
“We don’t want to rush them and we don’t want to risk them too soon, but there’s no denying the fact that the likes of Danny and Fraizer are really starting to get there now.”