SUNDERLAND’S injury crisis has reached epic proportions ahead of tomorrow’s game at Bolton Wanderers, with skipper Lee Cattermole and key central defender Michael Turner expected to miss the final three games of the season.
Turner was injured in a training ground challenge earlier this week, and the initial diagnosis is not good.
Although the 6ft 3ins defender’s knock will not put him on the long-term injured list, he definitely misses the game at Bolton tomorrow and is unlikely to be involved in the remaining games at home to Wolves and then away to West Ham.
Cattermole, struggling with a back injury since the weekend, has not trained all week and saw a specialist yesterday about the niggling problem.
The good news is that it is not a recurrence of the strain which sidelined him for the early part of the year. The bad news is that the injury will rule him out of tomorrow’s trip and makes him an extreme doubt for the remaining couple of games.
It’s just the sort of news that under-pressure Steve Bruce didn’t need
The manager has had heart-to-heart talks with chairman Niall Quinn this week about what has gone wrong in the second half of the season and what can be done to address an alarming drop off in form. And his hopes of at least ending the season with a few good results have taken a huge blow with Turner and Cattermole’s set-backs.
Having negotiated a start of 2011 which saw the defection of Darren Bent to Aston Villa amid a growing list of injuries, the manager had been looking forward to the last couple of months of the season when he expected to be back up to full strength with the impending of striker Fraizer Campbell as well as Cattermole and Turner.
Those hopes have been completely dashed and on top of that, the club has picked up even more injuries.
At the start of last month he told the Echo: “Cattermole and Turner are immense players for us and we’ve found it difficult to cope successfully without them.
“Turner gives you that big physical presence you need at the back. He’s terrific in the air, strong in the challenge and as brave as a lion.
“As for Catts, not only does he win the ball in midfield and break up opposition attacks but he’s also a great leader and he brings the best out of all those around them.
“These are big players for us and we’ve missed them both.”
Now it looks like both will be sidelined, forcing Bruce into another last-minute reshuffle.
John Mensah has been slowly approaching full fitness but now looks a certainty to start the game, while Anton Ferdinand also comes into the equation.
The simplest solution would be to partner Mensah alongside Nedum Onuoha at centre-half and play Ferdinand at right-back, which would allow Ahmed Elmohamady to move from defence into the right-wing position, and for Jordan Henderson to switch inside and take up Cattermole’s place.
But with Henderson having also failed to train all week and still struggling with a groin strain, there’s a real doubt whether or not the England Under 21 man will be involved. If not, there could be a surprise call-up for Paraguayan misfit Cristian Riveros.
Kieran Richardson is not expected to be fit enough to resume first-team duties.