Sunderland’s injury woes improve

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SUNDERLAND’S injury woes from the weekend have eased – giving Steve Bruce hope of having a strong squad to call on as the club looks to finish the campaign strongly.

The Black Cats’ boss cut a disconsolate figure on Sunday after losing FIVE players, as well as the Liverpool game.

But three days on and the situation already looks much more encouraging.

Sulley Muntari (knee) and Kieran Richardson (hamstring) were forced off before the halfway point of the first half against Liverpool, while Bardsley (knee) and Anton Ferdinand (ankle) struggled to finish the game.

Danny Welbeck (fatigue) had to come off on the hour and John Mensah, who was red-carded in the dying minutes, suffered a strain and was doubtful for Ghana’s friendly game against England next week.

It was just the sort of blow Bruce didn’t need after months of counting the days until a substantial injury list eased.

“It’s typical of us, the moment we get four players coming back from injury we take five fresh knocks in one game,” the

manager moaned.

But the good news is that many of the injuries don’t appear to be as bad as first feared.

Ferdinand, who sustained a kick against Liverpool which left him limping for the rest of the game and looking to the dug-out for potential substitution, has bounced straight back and was able to take part in full training yesterday.

Muntari, whose twisted knee was a real concern on Sunday, has also staged a good recovery and has been deemed fit enough to join the Ghana squad preparing for pre-match training sessions in Nairobi.

There he will train alongside Mensah, fresh from having his red-carded rescinded, who is also fit enough to continue his recent run of first-team availability.

Elsewhere, England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce will have been an anxious man after Welbeck’s withdrawal on the hour in the Liverpool game.

“Fatigue was the only reason we brought him off,” said Bruce of a player who was starting his first Premier League game since January 5.

And Pearce would have wondered whether Welbeck would have been one of a string of players to have withdrawn from his squad due to face Denmark tomorrow and Iceland in Preston on Monday.

But Welbeck remains earmarked to link up with the squad, with Bruce no doubt hoping that any involvement will only boost the striker’s fitness ahead of Sunderland’s run-in to the end of the season.

Bruce has also had good news on the Kieran Richardson front.

The former Manchester United man pulled up with a hamstring injury against Liverpool but wisely came straight off rather than trying to play on.

That good sense has paid off, with tests revealing that it is a tweak rather than a tear of the hamstring. With a fortnight between games, the utility player should be available for Sunderland’s next outing at Manchester City on April 3.

The only player likely to miss the City game is Phil Bardsley, who played bravely on with a real knee problem on Sunday because Sunderland had used all three substitutes.

The defender had had the problem for some time and can only have worsened it by enduring the whole game.

He has been forced out of the Scotland squad which flew to La Manga in Spain for warm-weather training and must be regarded as a serious doubt for the visit to City.

Bruce, though, has options if Bardsley is his only worry – with Nedum Onuoha set to return at right-back, the likelihood is that Richardson will drop to left-back, though Ferdinand and Jack Colback are also options.