JOHN O’SHEA needs to prove his fitness today if he is to hand Sunderland a timely boost by making his home debut this weekend.
O’Shea has made just one appearance for Sunderland since his £5million summer move from Manchester United after being hampered by injuries.
The 30-year-old suffered a hamstring strain during pre-season and then missed out on his Stadium of Light bow last weekend after sustaining a calf problem during the international break.
But with fellow full-back Phil Bardsley suspended for Sunday’s visit of Stoke City, Steve Bruce is eager to have O’Shea back in the fold.
O’Shea returned to training at the Academy of Light this morning and must come through unscathed if Bruce is to hand the Republic of Ireland international Bardsley’s place in the starting line-up.
Bruce told the Echo: “O’Shea will train today and tomorrow and hopefully he’ll be okay for Sunday.
“He’s come through all the sessions with the physio okay, we just need to check how he is on the training pitch now.
“Today’s a big day for him because he’ll train flat out.
“He’s only played once for us at Swansea and we saw then what he can bring to us. We’ve already seen the quality that Wes Brown (O’Shea’s fellow signing from Man United) gives us.
“Those two have been brought in to make us better defensively and John undoubtedly brings something to the table.”
Bardsley was handed a four-match ban earlier this week after he was retrospectively punished by the FA for a stamp on Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata during last weekend’s defeat.
The 26-year-old will miss the encounters with Stoke, Norwich, West Brom and Arsenal.
He had the regular three-match suspension increased because of the his sending off against Newcastle earlier in the season.
Bruce has no issue with the FA’s punishment and insists there was never any question of Sunderland appealing the charge.
“There’s things you do in a football match that you scratch your head at afterwards,” added Bruce. “We’ve all done things we regret and it was a sad incident which he’s been punished for.
“Phil is honest enough to know he has made a genuine mistake. I don’t think he naturally intended to do it because I’ve known Phil for a long, long time.
“But the evidence is there for all to see. We’ll take our punishment and get on with it.”