TITUS Bramble wants to make up for lost time when he returns to Sunderland’s starting line-up against Chelsea on Saturday.
The big centre-back has yet to feature for Sunderland this term and admits he was gutted not to be included in the opening-day game at Liverpool.
Bramble has since come to terms with the manager’s way of thinking – accepting that, after a long injury lay-off, he probably needed more time to recover his sharpness.
But the former Wigan defender (pictured) insists he is now fully fit and itching to get his 2011/12 campaign under way.
He said: “It has been disappointing not to play any games so far this season, but I can see where the manager was coming from – I didn’t have a great pre-season.
“I played in games, but my performances weren’t great at all.
“I was rusty.
“So, looking on the positive side, I think the extra few weeks work on the training ground will prove to be beneficial and hopefully, come matchday, I am going to be 100 per cent ready.”
With Bramble and Michael Turner both feeling the strain after long-term knee injuries, manager Steve Bruce chose to pair new signing Wes Brown with Anton Ferdinand at the heart of defence in the first four games this season.
The pairing worked well, with Ferdinand producing arguably the most consistently good football of his time at Sunderland alongside the former Manchester United star.
But Ferdinand was in the final year of his contract with the Black Cats and, when QPR made a £3m bid on transfer deadline day, it proved to be too good an offer to turn down.
“Football is a crazy game – we all know that – and you don’t know what is happening from one day to the next,” mused Bramble.
“We are all disappointed that Anton has left because he is a great guy to have around the dressing room.
“He would get us up before games and if we’d had a bad day he’d get us up afterwards
“But he has gone now and we have to get over that.”
Though Ferdinand may have departed, the recruitment of Brown and John O’Shea from Manchester United has added a wealth of experience and ability to Sunderland’s back-line and Bramble says that can only help the Black Cats as they look to build on last season’s 10th-place finish.
He said: “Anton has gone, but we are still strong because there is competition between myself, Michael Turner, Wes Brown and John O’Shea and we all want to play.
“Wes and John have played at the best club in the world for many years and they have all won lots of trophies and international caps.
“So players like those are great to have in the squad. You can learn a lot from them.
“That competition is good for the team because we want to improve every year, and that means aiming to finish, I don’t know, seventh or eighth this season.”
O’Shea, who played at right-back in Sunderland’s goalless draw at Swansea 11 days ago, is facing a race against time to be fit to face Chelsea after dropping out of the Republic of Ireland squad this week with hip and calf problems.
Turner has played only a handful of games since injuring his knee in a collision with a goal post 10 months ago. He has not figured at all so far this season and is still some way off a return.