FRAIZER Campbell and Danny Welbeck are on course to hand Sunderland boss Steve Bruce an earlier-than-expected boost on the strike front.
Both forwards are making excellent progress from serious injuries and while Campbell is already champing at the bit in light training, Welbeck is also on the verge of getting back on the training pitch too.
Bruce, who yesterday pledged himself to Sunderland until 2014 by signing a new contract, told the Echo: “It’s excellent news with the both of them – Fraizer in particular – and, hopefully, they’ll stay on course.”
Campbell has been out since the end of August since damaging cruciate knee ligaments in the game against Manchester City at the Stadium of Light.
Welbeck has been sidelined after suffering knee cartilage damage in the game at Aston Villa in early January.
Both players had been in excellent form prior to their injuries and Bruce admits their returns would significantly boost Sunderland’s hopes of a strong end to the season.
He said: “With the squad we’ve got we can actually cope quite well – provided Asamoah Gyan stays fit.
“With him as a lone striker, we’ve got plenty of quality midfielders who can play behind him, link up well and ensure we still carry a goal threat.
“But of course, it will be great when we have Fraizer and Danny back. They are top, top young players and it has been great to see them coming along.
“Fraizer has been irrepressible in the last few days – you can see he’s thrilled to be back.
“He goes to see the specialist on Monday to get the all-clear to return to full training, but in all honesty, we expect that to be a formality.
“Already he’s doing everything but getting involved in physical contact and I’ve got to say, he’s looking in great shape.
“It really is like signing a new player because he’s bright as a button as a personality and he adds another bit of banter and fun to training.
“Danny, too, is on course to be back soon and when we have those two fit again and firing on all cylinders, we’ll be quite a proposition.”
Campbell was the star of Sunderland’s pre-season, finding the net regularly and had started off the campaign in eye-catching form before his luckless injury.
Although he had not got on the scoresheet, he was causing defences all sorts of problems and creating openings for others.
Welbeck, too, found goals hard to come by initially, the on-loan Manchester United forward failing to score in his first 13 appearances, even though, like Campbell, he was continuing to contribute in other areas.
But then he suddenly found his best form and scored six goals in nine games, before injury struck at the Villa game.
Sunderland have mixed news elsewhere on the injury front, however.
Michael Turner has had a setback with his knee injury, though it doesn’t look as serious as first thought.
David Meyler has had a setback and needs to undergo another scan to assess the nature of the problem, but skipper Lee Cattermole is back in light training.
Bruce said: “The injury problems have been a concern for us, but thankfully they’re finally starting to ease now.
“With Fraizer almost back in full training and, hopefully, Danny Welbeck and then Lee Cattermole not far behind, we’re finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.”