STEVE Bruce will not fret over John O’Shea’s absence from Sunderland’s pre-season preparations despite the club’s other summer acquisitions benefiting from the chance to gel.
O’Shea was one of FOUR defenders missing from Sunderland’s 3-1 defeat against Hannover 96 last night, with Bruce forced to hand 18-year-old Louis Laing his first start in a Black Cats shirt.
While Titus Bramble and Michael Turner are expected to feature in Saturday’s encounter with Borussia Monchengladbach and new boy Wes Brown is set to make his first appearance of pre-season at Kilmarnock next Wednesday, O’Shea faces another fortnight on the sidelines.
It potentially leaves the Republic of Ireland international with just two friendlies to step up his fitness for the start of the Premier League campaign after he strained his hamstring in the opening game of Sunderland’s pre-season tour on Sunday.
Bruce had hoped Sunderland’s nine summer signings would benefit from arriving so early in the summer by familiarising themselves with their new surroundings during pre-season.
But the Black Cats boss is not panicking over O’Shea’s niggling injury – insisting there is still plenty of time for the 30-year-old to be ready for the Premier League opener at Liverpool, on August 13.
Bruce told the Echo: “It’s disappointing that John hasn’t played here, but we’ve still got three weeks left.
“We need him to be ready in a few weeks time, not now.
“We’ve got games when we get back. It would be nice to see him play but he got his leg in a difficult position against Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday and strained a muscle. We’ll have to keep an eye on how he is.
“The last thing we want to do now is risk anybody. If they’ve got anything slight, I’d rather them give training and the games a rest.
“But the vast majority got through the game yesterday and hopefully everyone’s okay.”
Bramble and Turner were left out of last night’s clash as a precaution with both making their way back from long-term knee injuries.
Turner sat out Tuesday’s training session after playing 90 minutes in each of Sunderland’s first two pre-season friendlies while Bramble is still being forced to wear a knee brace between games.
But Kieran Richardson and Lee Cattermole, who both missed the tail end of last season through injury, again featured for Bruce’s side.
“Titus and Turner are only two weeks in so there’s a little bit of precaution there,” added Bruce.
“We’ve still got four weeks to go.
“The most important thing for me is for the likes of Richardson and Cattermole to get minutes under their belt.
“Kieran getting through 90 minutes and Cattermole getting half an hour is terrific.”