The latest on Sunderland midfielder's injury and why growing options will have January impact
Ethan Robson is unlikely to return to Sunderland action until the new year, but Jack Ross is pleased with growing competition in midfield.
Robson picked up a nasty ankle injury in the 3-1 Checkatrade Trophy win back in September, a game in which the youngster both scored and starred before leaving the pitch.
He is back running again but is at least a fortnight away from returning to full training.
“He’s started running now, which is a step forward for him,” Ross said.
“It was a nasty injury he had, he’s back on the grass and doing a bit of conditioning work but he’s probably still two or three weeks away from even being back in full training.”
Ross has a wealth of talent in that department but it has not always felt that way.
Lee Cattermole and Dylan McGeouch have had spells on the sideline with injury and Max Power has missed numerous matches through suspension.
The picture is rapidly improving, however, particularly when you consider the assured performances of Bali Mumba when he has been called upon.
“It gives you peace of mind in that area of the pitch,” Ross said.
“But even then, it’s incredible how quickly it can turn.
“Because if you look back at Walsall a couple of weeks ago, we only had Max and Luke O’Nien.
“Luke is slightly different in terms of his position so there’s times when we’ve not had much available.
“Now, Dylan and Lee coming back, Ethan potentially coming back, there’s five and then George is obviously very capable in that position as well.”
The return of Robson underlines the strength at Ross’s disposal.
He has already said that the imminent returns of Duncan Watmore and Charlie Wyke mean that he will be relaxed if Sudnerland do not make any January additions.
Robson is another player who could make an impact and Ross admitted that at full availability, his squad may even be slightly too big.
Injuries could intervene between now and the window opening, however, and Ross has had a number of hurdles to overcome in that sense already.
“It has been a strange season at times, we have hardly ever, if at all, had a full squad available,” he said.
“With a full squad I would say we were maybe slightly bloated.
“But we’ve never had that, which has been part of the challenge this season.
“I’m not complaining about it because we’ve still had enough within the squad but having that real competitiveness in the squad will be good as well.”
As it stands Ross is expecting a quiet January, though last week he admitted that he would be open to adding some defensive cover.
Former Newcastle United defender David Edgar was due to link up with the squad for a trial at some stage this week.
By and large, however, Ross is more than content with the options he has.