Danny Batth provides injury update as Sunderland defender discusses Lee Johnson's departure and Alex Neil's arrival

Danny Batth is hopeful he’ll be available for selection when Sunderland host Gillingham this weekend - following the defender’s frustrating injury setback.

The 31-year-old centre-back hasn’t featured under Alex Neil after damaging his ankle in last month’s 2-1 defeat at Cheltenham.

Batth, who joined Sunderland from Stoke in January, has returned to training, though, and played 90 minutes for the Black Cats’ under-23 side against Burnley last week.

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“It just seems to have dragged on and I’ve tried to come back a few times,” Batth told the Echo.

Danny Batth playing for Sunderland. Picture by FRANK REID

“It's been a niggly injury so we’ve kind of had to let it build up and obviously I’ve been working hard off the pitch in the gym and physically.

“The injury was pretty unfortunate, it was in a blocked tackle. I’ve won the ball and the guy has put all his weight into my ankle.

“There was no massive damage on the scan, it has just been niggling and niggling so hopefully that’s behind me now and I can crack on.

“I’ve just been using the international break to get upto speed.”

While Batth has been sidelined, Sunderland have kept four clean sheets in five games and regained some much-needed confidence under Neil.

“It’s actually been really pleasing because I’ve joined the club because I want us to go in the right direction, whether I’m on the pitch or off the pitch it’s irrelevant,” Batth added.

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“Obviously in an ideal world I’d be fit and ready to go with the new manager coming in, but the manager will be aware of me from competitions and games against each other in the past so I’ll be working hard to get into his thoughts.”

While Batth has only been at the club for two months, a lot has changed in that time.

The defender signed for the Black Cats in the middle of January when Lee Johnson was in charge, yet the head coach was sacked less than two weeks later.

“I guess football is one thing that is very unpredictable,” admitted the defender.

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“When you sign for a club you always have to bear in mind that there are a lot of moving parts and things can change very quickly. I think joining a club like Sunderland that doesn't change because of the manager.

“There is obviously a goal and a target here at the club and I want to be a part of that.”

Batth, who signed an 18-month contract at Sunderland, now hopes he can play a part under Neil for the remainder of the season, with the team aiming to finish in the League One play-off places.

“They have been good, positive,” said Batth when asked about his conversations with Neil.

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“Obviously he just wants me to get back and back into training.

“I’ll use the next few weeks to build up and then see where we’re at then.

“Hopefully I’ll be ready. The team have been doing well but I always feel like I can help improve and have a big part to play at the club going forward.”

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