Sunderland boss gives Alex Pritchard and Lynden Gooch fitness update ahead of final pre-season friendly
Lynden Gooch will return to the Sunderland side to face Hull City on Friday night, but Lee Johnson has not yet decided whether Alex Pritchard will make his debut.
Gooch picked up a hamstring injury at York City last week, but Johnson was hopeful that the damage was not serious and the attacking midfielder has made good progress since then.
Johnson is expected to name a strong side for the final pre-season friendly and so Gooch will be eager to press his claims ahead of the League One kick-off.
Pritchard's progress was significantly affected by testing positive for COVID-19 shortly after his arrival at the club, and Johnson is eager to get the balance between pushing him towards full fitness, and ensuring he is ready for the campaign ahead.
"Lynden will be fit," he said.
"Pritchard, that's the million-dollar question.
"He trained today, which was his first full training session since testing positive for COVID.
"His heart was good, he had COVID and then a murmur, which meant he then had to go and see a specialist. He then had to have a maximal test which was actually good, because it then meant that we didn't have to build him up over six days.
"So we've nicked five days, basically.
"He looked sharp today but listen, he's some way behind the other lads in terms of training minutes.
"He missed most of the end of last season because of his contract situation, and they [Huddersfield] finished earlier than we did.
"He then came back, had two days and looked to be about a fortnight behind everybody, then got COVID.
"It's not on the ball, he's sharp as a tack when it comes to that, it's just those longer distances.
"He's moving well, so I've got absolutely no qualms, we will absolutely get him there.
"It's just going to be a delicate process.
"I was thinking about giving him ten minutes on Friday, but he won't be anywhere near where he can be.
"He'll be beating my door down for minutes because that's what he's like, but at the same time I have got to protect him.
"I've got to get that balance so in a few weeks he'll be ready to start regularly for us."