SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Kavanagh battling, Ward’s vow

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.

KAV BEATS PAIN TO PLAY PART

DETERMINED Graham Kavanagh is working his way through niggling knee problems in a bid to underpin Sunderland’s bid for a Championship play-off place.

The midfield general underwent a knee cartilage operation back in September which sidelined him for just over a month.

But even though he’s made a successful return to the side, he’s still suffering minor complications which the club’s medical staff are having to keep an eye on.

The former Cardiff and Wigan star told the Echo: “I’m getting there fitness-wise, but I’m still not 100 per cent.

“I’ve had to have injections to take away a bit of fluid from the back of the knee – the one I had and operation on.

“I had a cyst at the back of the knee which keeps on filling up when I have a heavy session or a game, so it’s not ideal.

“It’s not really 100 per cent, but I’ve been managing it and I’ve had a cortisone injection hoping to close the hole up.

“But it hasn’t affected my mobility in matches and each game I’ve felt I’ve been getting stronger.

“So I’m sure that being fully, fully fit will come over the course of the next few weeks.

“The good news is that I’m going into games now and when I first came back I was worrying whether I could get through the full 90 minutes.

“Now I don’t see that as a problem and I’ve enjoyed the last couple of appearances in what has been a good run.”

The 33-year-old said last week that his aim is to help Sunderland go undefeated through December.

And the last-gasp point at Burnley last Saturday keeps the Black Cats on course with games still to come against Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Preston North End.

Kavanagh said: “The January transfer window is coming up and hopefully we’ll manage to strengthen the squad then, one way or another.

“So it’s clear that we’ve got to put ourselves in as strong a position as possible by the end of December and if we avoid defeats it will boose both confidence and our points total.”

WARD VOW: WE WON’T GET OVER-CONFIDENT

DARREN WARD says Sunderland won’t get carried away by their seven-game unbeaten run.

Belief is pumping through the Black Cats; squad, but Ward warns that it would be dangerous for Roy Keane’s men to get too confident.

A punishing schedule of four games in en days lies ahead over the festive period and the experienced keeper has urged his team-mates to remain focused.

He said: “There’s a real desire and will to win even in the training games and the practices we have.

“With confidence and the success we’ve had recently in not losing games it puts a spring in your step and that’s apparent even in training.

“I think that comes through in the games and that never-say-die attitude was more apparent than ever at Turf Moor on Saturday with our late goals.

“We work hard day in, day out to get our reward on a match day so it’s really pleasing.

“Things are starting to come together but we don’t want to get too carried away because there’s always a full around the corner.

“It’s a fantastic run we’ve been going on and hopefully that will continue over a busy Christmas period. It’s a big test for us all to maintain the standards we’ve set ourselves but it’s something we’re looking forward to achieving.”

Sunderland rallied from two goals down to snatch a dramatic late draw at Burnley on Saturday.

They travel to Crystal Palace on Friday and then host Leeds on Boxing Day and Preston on December 30 before a New Year’s Day trip to Leicester.

The Wearsiders are only three points away from the play-offs and Ward says their recent improvement is not just down to spirit. “Regardless of what happens in the dressing room it’s all about quality of players and we’ve got quality in abundance at this club,” he said.

“The players out on loan have even got quality and they’re showing it at other clubs in this division so we’ve got all the ammunition needed to get ourselves out of this division.

“We’re now hoping we can have that little bit of luck go our way.

“Things have gone OK from a personal point of view, but if you ask any footballer it’s not about individual performances, it’s about how the team performs because as a collective unit we’re all wanting the same thing – promotion into the top division.

“We’re all pulling together in the right direction and we’ll see where it takes us.”