Sunderland boss gives a major Ross Stewart injury update - and explains Dan Ballard latest

Tony Mowbray says Ross Stewart still has a chance of being involved when Sunderland face Millwall this weekend, but insists he won't take a gamble on the influential striker's fitness.

Stewart came through a full training session for the first time on Thursday afternoon, raising the possibility of him taking a place on the bench come Saturday lunchtime.

The Sunderland head coach will assess the 26-year-old again tomorrow before making a final decision, but says that the form and now full fitness of Ellis Simms means he can proceed with caution if he feels he needs to.

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Mowbray is in no doubt, however, that Stewart is making positive progress.

Sunderland striker Ross Stewart

"We mixed it up with Ross while we were out there, he did some stuff on his own and some of the possession stuff with the team," Mowbray said.

"He didn't really get involved with the high intensity stuff but today he's joined in for the whole session for the first time, and he's come through it smiling. We had to take him off the shooting at the end because he's wanting to do a bit extra - which suggests he's chomping at the bit and ready to go.

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"We'll have a chat after training tomorrow. I think in his mind he's ready, in my mind he's been out for a long time and it's whether we need to risk him after just one day of training. We've won our last game and our striker has scored, and one of our other forwards has scored...

"After this game we've got nine whole days before the next one, it might make more sense to let him have a full week plus training every day, to get his mind fully ready that he's fine. It feels a little like we'll be gambling by putting him on the bench, but if he's adamant he's fine and can make an impact if we need a goal etc. we might do that. We'll see."

Mowbray's depth across the pitch has improved significantly, with Lynden Gooch, Niall Huggins, Dennis Cirkin and Aji Alese all improving their position over the break.

Luke O'Nien is also available again after missing the 2-1 win over Birmingham City through suspension.

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One player still unavailable is Daniel Ballard, but Mowbray is hopeful that he could return over the festive period as he closes in on his return from a foot injury.

"He didn't train with us in Dubai, he was still doing his own work," Mowbray said.

"He looks hugely impressive when he's doing that, he's a real powerhouse.

"He's just not ready yet, he's getting closer and hopefully next he'll be back in training. Then we'll see where we're at and where the team is at. We know he'll bring big competition to the defensive side of the team and hopefully it's not too long before he's knocking on the door and telling me he's ready."

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Bailey Wright and Jewison Bennette will both be absent given their ongoing involvement in the World Cup in Qatar.