LEE CATTERMOLE’S injury comeback is not thought to have been derailed, despite lasting just 45 minutes for Sunderland Under-21s.
Cattermole, whose future under Paolo Di Canio remains uncertain, made his first appearance since February for the Black Cats youngsters in yesterday’s 1-0 win over Bolton after being plagued by knee ligament problems during the second half of last season.
But the midfielder, who only returned to full training a fortnight ago, failed to re-emerge for the second half after complaining of a niggle before the interval.
U21 coach Kevin Ball says that was merely precautionary, as Cattermole attempts to find his feet again after the injury which has restricted him to just 60 minutes of first-team football in 2013.
But the injury news on Phil Bardsley, considered surplus to requirements by Di Canio, looks far more bleak after injuring his right foot when making a sliding tackle on the stroke of half-time.
Bardsley was put in a foot brace last night – an injury that could potentially scupper his hopes of leaving the Stadium of Light before the transfer window closes.
Ball told the Echo: “From Lee’s point of view, it was the first game he’s really had in pre-season so we were quite comfortable with what happened.
“Training-wise and games-wise, he’s been limited with us so he wanted to come off at half-time and I was comfortable with that.
“From Phil’s point of view, he’s gone into a tackle and got kicked on the top of the foot.
“You always ask them to see how it is and whether they want to carry on, and if they say ‘no’, then that’s fine by me.
“If I felt they could do and didn’t want to, then I’d talk to them about it afterwards!
“But Phil’s a tough cookie and in pre-season when he’s been playing with us, as a professional, he’s been brilliant around the young lads.”
Bardsley has been training with the U21s throughout the summer after falling foul of Di Canio’s disciplinary policies at the end of last season.
Cattermole is building up with his fitness with Ball’s men too and the ex-Sunderland skipper says his young professionals are learning from playing alongside the duo.
“The one thing you ask from any pro – not just Lee and Phil in this case – is that when they come down, to do it right,” he added.
“Yes, it might not be their team, but there are lads in that team out there who are fighting for their careers in the game.
“They want to look up to people and learn off them.
“When I dropped down (as a player) I’d like to think I did it right because I wanted to make sure I played well.
“The nice thing is when the pro’s drop down, they do that.
“When my lads play alongside them, there are little things that they will pick up on and no amount of coaching can do that.”