DAVID Meyler will not be rushed back to aid Sunderland’s survival cause despite returning to the substitutes’ bench.
Meyler was a shock inclusion in the 18 for Sunderland’s defeat at Birmingham City last weekend after Kieran Richardson failed a fitness test on the morning of the game.
The 21-year-old had only just returned to training following a four-month absence and is still to play any competitive football either for the reserves or in a behind-closed-doors friendly.
But Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has resolved to take a cautious approach with Meyler, particularly given Sunderland’s history with players suffering injury relapses this season.
Meyler himself aggravated his knee ligaments less than a month after returning ahead of schedule from cruciate damage to the same knee.
Titus Bramble, Fraizer Campbell and Michael Turner have also suffered relapses and Bruce does not want to see Sunderland suffer more injury heartache.
Bruce told the Echo: “It was to give David a lift psychologically. He’s trained for a couple of weeks now but I was never realistically going to use him at Birmingham.
“I have to be a bit wary of that, with the huge injury he’s had and how he suffered a setback in January. But mentally it’ll give him something to think about.
“We’d love him fit and were banking on that when he came back in January, because we won two out of three with him in the team.
“He’s been a big miss. When we were up against it last year I brought him in and he did fantastically well for us.”
Bruce caution is understandable given he has already had his fingers burned by an injury to Meyler this season.
The former Cork City midfielder was making an impressive comeback from the horrific knee injury which saw him stretchered off in the final home game of last season.
But in his sixth game of the season, at Aston Villa in January, Meyler collapsed to the floor.
Although it wasn’t a recurrence of the cruciate problem, as first feared, Sunderland have still been without Meyler for the second half of the campaign.
Bruce was concerned whether he had played a part in Meyler’s injury by asking the Irishman to play three games in eight days.
He said at the time: “I ask myself if I asked too much of him and I hope not.”