FRAIZER Campbell will bring seven months of injury hell to an end on Sunday when he returns to the Sunderland squad.
The former Manchester United striker is pencilled in for a place on the substitutes’ bench for the Black Cats’ Premier League trip to fourth-top Manchester City – ironically the side he was playing against when he badly damaged his cruciate ligaments back in August at the Stadium of Light.
And the 23-year-old is likely to get a run-out at Eastlands at some stage after impressing in training and for the reserves in recent weeks.
Manager Steve Bruce said: “Fraizer goes into the squad on merit and he has every chance of playing at some stage on Sunday because he’s really looked the part.
“He’s been a breath of fresh air around the training ground and he’s come back really well over the last few weeks.
“It’s been a long time out for the lad, a long time, but he’s looking just as good as he was before the injury and we’re looking forward to having him to call on again.”
It’s a textbook comeback for the striker who is bang on course to fulfil the medic’s original schedule of an April return.
And having scored in the first minute of Sunderland Reserves’ 1-1 draw with West Brom on Tuesday in an excellent first-half’s play, his confidence will be high.
Bruce watched that game and said: “It just reminded me of what we’ve missed this season.
“Fraizer had been a revelation in pre-season scoring a stack of goals and playing well and even though he hadn’t got among the goals in the first few games of the season he was our dangerman before the injury.
“If we’d had him available all season, we’d have been a far more dangerous side.”
While Campbell makes a welcome return to the squad, two other players with Manchester connections will definitely be absent – on-loan Nedum Onuoha is ineligible to play against parent club City, while ex-Red Devil Kieran Richardson has still not recovered from a hamstring strain sustained against Liverpool and is out. He is expected to be available, though, for Sunderland’s home game against West Bromwich Albion next week.
Michael Turner has returned to full training and is now playing without discomfort in his knee, but the City game comes too soon for the centre-back and he will not be considered for the match.
Phil Bardsley was not expected to make Sunday’s game after aggravating a knee injury in the defeat to Liverpool a fortnight ago, but the full-back is now rated more likely to play against City than not. Sulley Muntari and Anton Ferdinand also picked up knocks in the Liverpool game but both are available.