Lee Johnson gives Jordan Jones and Denver Hume update that will encourage Sunderland fans
Lee Johnson has been handed a major boost this week with both Jordan Jones and Denver Hume taking significant steps towards a first-team return.
Both remain major doubts for the trip to Bristol Rovers on Saturday afternoon, but Hume came through a behind-closed-doors return against Gateshead earlier this week.
Jones has an outside chance of returning tomorrow afternoon, and looks set to be available for the promotion run-in.
Johnson will be picking from a similar squad otherwise, with Bailey Wright making progress but not yet ready to return.
"We’re getting there," Johnson said.
"Bailey is feeling really good, although he’s not immediately close to a return. Jordan Jones is a lot closer. It’s probably 70-30 against him playing [against Bristol Rovers], but he’s certainly out there buzzing about, which is good.
“Flanagan is back out on the grass, but is still a couple of weeks away.
"He might have to have a steroid injection in his foot because he’s still got a niggly chipped bone in the joint on the metatarsal. "Hopefully, that won’t really interfere with his hamstring rehab, it will just aid it and make him run that little bit more fluidly.”
Hume is set to step up his comeback in an U23 game next week, after which Johnson will make a decision on a potential return for two crucial Easter weekend fixtures.
"Denver’s moving really well," Johnson said.
"He’s really committing to every action, as you’d expect with his all-action style. He managed to get 45 minutes in a game against Gateshead in the week, and we were looking for that energy as well as the speed and dynamism that he’s got.
“That all looked perfect. There was no impingement there at all. He was a little bit rusty in possession, but you’d expect that after so long out.
"We’ve got an Under-23s game on Monday against Burnley, and I’d like him to get some more minutes in that. Then we’ll have a look and assess it, and speak to him to see how he feels about the progression back to getting first-team minutes.”
Sunderland's preparation this week was disrupted by a COVID-19 scare earlier in the week, which prevented the team's return to training as planned.
Johnson is hopeful that there will no medium-term impact from the scare.
"We had a bit of a Covid situation with one of our members, we won’t reveal who at the moment," he said.
“The boys had to be tested, which meant they had an extra day where they couldn’t come in, even though they worked at home, physically.
“All is well on the Covid front, and we should be all right going into tomorrow.
“Since the two cases, everybody has returned back negative, which is good. One was from a player that hasn’t been in the squad a lot recently and has been injured.
“We had a good training game against Gateshead during the week, which was good, and then we’ve just been trying to get the preparation right for the weekend.”