Lee Johnson outlines the next steps for Alex Pritchard and when Sunderland fans might see him in action
Lee Johnson hopes that Alex Pritchard could play some part in Sunderland's final pre-season friendly, but says the 28-year-old will have to be carefully managed as he gets back to full fitness.
Pritchard joined the Black Cats earlier this month but his integration was set back when he tested positive for COVID-19.
The attacking midfielder subsequently missed out on the club's week-long training camp in Scotland as he isolated.
Pritchard has been able to continue wth his fitness work at home but will clearly need time to get up to speed.
"He's little and I know it sounds silly but smaller players do get fitter quicker," Johnson said.
"Those big, clunky lads can take a little bit longer to get going.
"But I would imagine that the first real possibility would be the Hull City game, but even then under doctor's orders I wouldn't have thought he would be able to do too much.
"Alex is obviously the furthest behind because if you think about it, Huddersfield Town finished their season and then we carried on for another few weeks in the play-offs.
"Then there's that spell where he is looking for a club and in talks.
"Then he comes in and has a couple of days training, is obviously a bit behind the others and then bang, COVID sets him back another 16 days.
"So that's going to be a tricky one to manage and to get him back in top nick."
Elliot Embleton has been a significant player in Sunderland's early pre-season games, and again took his chance to impress aganst York City on Tuesday night.
Blackpool remain interested in a permanent deal for their former loanee and while conscious of the fact the 22-year-old is entering the final year of his deal, the Black Cats do not want to sell and plan to hand him a significant role this season.
"He's a very good player, isn't he," Johnson said.
"He's now got almost that gravitas of having been away, doing well and coming back knowing he's got the support of everyone at the club.
"The way I want to play definitely suits him as well.
"He's also very versatile, and can play three or four of the positions across midfield."