TITUS BRAMBLE has returned to the training field after a month on the sidelines with a hip injury.
Bramble sustained the problem during the fortnight’s international break after Sunderland’s defeat at Manchester City last month – the game which coincided with the end of the 31-year-old’s run in the side, as he made way for the fit-again Carlos Cuellar.
The injury has prevented the defender taking a spot on Sunderland’s bench, with Matt Kilgallon providing the only back-up to first-choice central defensive pairing Cuellar and John O’Shea.
But Bramble is closing in on a comeback, albeit the former Newcastle United man needs more training under his belt before he returns to the match-day squad.
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill told the Echo: “Titus has trained for the last few days.
“He’s missed a good bit of time so he’ll need to get back into it.”
But while Bramble’s return looks imminent, fellow centre-half Wes Brown remains a long-term absentee, with the former Manchester United man now fitted with a knee brace in his attempts to rid himself of the injury problems that have sidelined him for the last 10 months.
Brown will wear the brace for several weeks after seeing a specialist in London, although the 33-year-old is unlikely to be in contention until at least the end of the year.
“Wes has had this setback,” said O’Neill.
“His knee is in a brace at this moment and it’s been really frustrating for him.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland were sweating on the fitness of full-back Phil Bardsley ahead of today’s trip to Everton.
Bardsley only made his first Premier League start of the season in last weekend’s defeat to Aston Villa after missing the opening three months of the campaign with an ankle problem.
But the Scotland international sustained a hamstring problem in the wake of the encounter, which has disrupted his preparations this week.
O’Neill added: “Phil Bardsley only trained yesterday.
“He didn’t feel anything when he came off, but the following day he felt a bit of a strain so we’ll see how he is.
“His ankle isn’t too bad, it’s his hamstring that’s the problem.”