SUNDERLAND were today counting the cost of another physically damaging Premier League encounter, after Anton Ferdinand, John Mensah and Kieran Richardson were added to the injury list in the wake of Saturday’s defeat by West Brom.
Mensah (groin) was substituted less than a dozen minutes into the game, Richardson (calf) made it to half-time and Ferdinand – Mensah’s original replacement – had to be replaced late on, having sustained a hamstring strain.
The trio join Fraizer Campbell and Titus Bramble on the treatment tables – two players who were unable to play against Manchester City last week after picking up late injuries.
And manager Steve Bruce says that the way things are going, his team selection for this Saturday’s game at Birmingham City might come down purely to who is is physically available.
He said: “The run of injuries we’re having at the moment is freakish.
“All three substitutions at the weekend were made as a result of injuries. We had to make two substitutions because of injuries in our last home game, against Liverpool.
“And we lost Titus and Fraizer on the eve of the Man City game.
“We’ll assess the injuries from the weekend over the next couple of days, but the way things are going, it might come down to who is physically fit enough to play.”
That will be good news for those players who didn’t make the starting 11 against West Brom and have a point to prove.
England cap Jordan Henderson now has every chance of starting at St Andrews, though it was a major surprise on Saturday when Bolo Zenden was preferred to the home-grown midfielder as Kieran Richardson’s interval replacement.
That turned out to be a tactical move by Bruce, who explained: “I feel as though I have to protect Jordan.
“I find it staggering that he bore the brunt of criticism for the Man City game and I wasn’t prepared to let him bear the brunt against Albion.
“He’s a fantastic player and it’s up to me to protect him.
“He accepted the decision to leave him on the bench.
“He’s a young lad and he trusts our decisions.
“But he’s fit and he’s healthy, unlike a few of his team-mates right now, so he’ll certainly come into contention for the Birmingham game.”
So, too, will Sulley Muntari, Jack Colback and Stephane Sessegnon as Bruce looks to deploy as fit and a sharp a squad as he can.
“We’ve been playing too many games with players who aren’t quite ready, or who are carrying knocks, and, in the remaining games, we’d like to have the team as fully fit as possible,” said Bruce.
“These are not games where you can afford to carry people.”