STEVE Bruce has refused to rule John O’Shea out of Sunderland’s opening day game against Liverpool next Saturday, despite the Irishman being due to play no part in today’s final pre-season friendly against Hibernian.
The manager said: “I’d rate John as no more than 50/50 at this stage for the Liverpool game, but at this stage it would be wrong to call it either way.”
The former Manchester United defender has still not fully recovered from a tweaked hamstring suffered on pre-season tour in Germany.
And although the original plan was to play him in Scotland this afternoon, the club will take no risks.
Bruce, right, said: “He’s not 100 per cent and because of that, he won’t play in our final pre-season game. But he still has a chance of being involved against Liverpool.
“It’s unfortunate he’s taken a knock. It’s one of those unlucky ones where he has twisted awkwardly during a game. It won’t be serious.
“But what we’re not willing to do – especially given our experience last season, where we had so many injuries – is take any risks.
“Luckily for us, John is one of those players who can go into games without a great deal of work previously and for that reason we’re not ruling him out of the first game of the season.
“But even if he doesn’t play against Liverpool, I’m pretty sure he’ll definitely be ready for the derby game against Newcastle United the following week.”
Bruce will take a strong team north of the border this weekend and admits he will use the game to help finalise his line-up for the new season.
He said: “I’m pretty clear on what team I’m likely to play at Liverpool, but the Hibs game will probably give me food for thought.
“It’s a great game for a final pre-season workout.
“They’ve already had two games in the Scottish Premier League this season so they’ll be fit and ready and hopefully, they will extend us and give us a real test.”
O’Shea apart, Sunderland have no major injury worries ahead of the game.
Michael Turner, Titus Bramble and Kieran Richardson continue their comebacks from long-term injuries.