STEVE Bruce is concerned about Ghana’s punishing international schedule with three of his star players covering more than 10,000 miles and several countries in the course of seven days.
Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan and John Mensah all linked up with their international team-mates on Wednesday in a training camp in Nairobi, Kenya, and before they return to the Stadium of Light in a week’s time they will have completed the sort of itinerary which would test any sportsman.
The trio have flown 4,500 miles already to train in Nairobi.
And at the weekend they will fly more than 1,500 miles to Brazzaville in the Congo for the international friendly against the Congolese on Sunday.
Immediately after that, they’ll be in the air again, heading more than 4,000 miles back to England overnight before going into training sessions ahead of their friendly against Fabio Capello’s side at Wembley on Tuesday.
Sunderland boss Bruce told the Echo: “It’s a heck of a schedule and it is a concern for us.
“I know the African lads have to get used to travelling long distances but this is a punishing workload by anyone’s standards.
“To come off a Premier League game against Liverpool, fly to Kenya, then fly to the Congo, then fly back to England and play three games in the space of less than 10 days would test anyone.
“All that travelling, the airports, the bus journeys – never mind the games – it takes its toll.
“And it’s something we’re monitoring because we’ve got three important first-team players involved and then at the weekend after the England v Ghana game we’ve got a difficult away trip ourselves to take on Manchester City.”
Each of the three Africans are important in different ways to Sunderland’s cause – Mensah one of the club’s few fit centre-halves; on-loan Muntari, a big January signing expected to add a touch of class to Sunderland’s run-in and record-signing Gyan, the club’s leading scorer and key striker.
The loss of any would be a blow to Bruce’s plans for the end of season run-in.
But how much football the three will play remains to be seen.
Mensah’s previous injury problems are well-documented and he suffered a slight strain in the Liverpool game; Muntari was substituted midway through the first-half at the weekend and could be doubt for Ghana’s game against the Congo.
He travelled to Nairobi so that his country’s own medical specialists could assess him but Gyan for certain is likely to be involved in both internationals.
Bruce said: “We’ll just have to wait and see.
“With all international trips the best you can do is keep your fingers crossed and hope they all come back fit and well.
“But certainly the situation with Ghana over the next seven days is a bit of an unusual one and we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on it.”