STEVE Bruce insists fit-again Fraizer Campbell must now conquer the mental hurdle after winning the physical battle with injury.
Campbell made a welcome return for Sunderland’s second string during yesterday’s 1-1 draw with West Ham in his first outing since rupturing his cruciate ligament against Manchester City last August.
The former Manchester United frontman played the final 30 minutes at the Academy of Light without suffering a reaction.
But Bruce knows from personal experience that Campbell will need to convince himself that his knee can cope with the rough and tumble of competitive football before he regains his confidence.
Bruce told the Echo: “You’ve always got to deal with the mental side of it.
“I remember when I broke my leg when I was younger and ended up trying to tackle with my other foot.
“You’re always a little bit hesitant.
“You need a whack on it and, all of a sudden, you’re confident again and you know it’s OK.
“It’s very difficult for any player who has been out for such a long time.”
Bruce has been hugely impressed by Campbell’s impact on the training ground over the last fortnight and the recovery he has made from the potentially career-threatening injury.
But the Sunderland boss remains cautious over Campbell’s first-team comeback.
Fellow cruciate victim David Meyler played three reserve games before returning to the first-team and Sunderland’s trip to Manchester City on April 3 is a much more likely outing for Campbell than the visit of Liverpool on Sunday week.
“I don’t think I’ve seen as good a recovery from a cruciate injury as the one I’ve seen with him,” added Bruce.
“Everything – from the scar to his leg to his rehab – has been excellent.
“When you look at him, you wouldn’t think he’s been out for seven months.
“I’ve always had it in my mind that we’ve got two games in March.
“We’ve got two weeks after Liverpool until Man City, so I’m looking at that game rather than Liverpool.
“Hopefully we can get enough football into him that he can be ready to make an impact.
“In the summer you have six weeks off and then six weeks pre-season where there is intensive training for a month.
“Then there’s something like seven games before you go into the first game of the season.
“You don’t have that if you’ve been out for six months, which makes it so difficult.”