WES BROWN could boost Sunderland’s defensive options against Swansea City tomorrow after making progress in his recovery from a groin injury.
The former England centre-half had been an ever-present for the Black Cats until he was forced off in New Year’s Day’s victory over Manchester City.
But after three weeks on the sidelines, Brown is in contention to replace the injured Matt Kilgallon tomorrow, while fellow defender Titus Bramble is also nearing full fitness.
Bramble limped off in Boxing Day’s draw with Everton due to an Achilles/calf problem after seeing his first-team exile ended by Martin O’Neill.
With Michael Turner also in the frame tomorrow after replacing Kilgallon from the bench at Chelsea last weekend, O’Neill’s previously threadbare defensive options are in line for a much-needed tonic.
O’Neill told the Echo: “Wes is improving and so is Titus. The news on Wes has been good this week and we’ll see how he is today, as we will with Titus.
“But Wes, perhaps more than Titus, might have a chance for this weekend. They’re certainly looking better than they were at this time last week.
“Michael came through the game fine at Chelsea last week and we just need to get him cranked up now.
“He did very well considering the game was in full flow when he came on.
“I only gave him three runs up the touchline to get warmed up so he did remarkably well.”
The diagnosis on Kilgallon is also much better than first feared after the 28-year-old was stretchered off at Stamford Bridge with an ankle injury.
A scan has shown there is no bone or ligament damage – providing a major boost for a player who has come in from the wilderness under O’Neill.
“He’s much better than we first anticipated,” added the Sunderland boss.
“Dave (Galley) our physiotherapist was concerned about the outside of his foot being very sore. He thought there might have been a bit of bone damage there.
“Thankfully that’s not the case. It’s soft tissue and in essence, it’s not as long as we thought he might be out for which is obviously good news.
“I don’t know exactly how long he’ll be out, but at one time we were thinking this could be between six to eight weeks.
“Hopefully it isn’t that long, setbacks aside of course.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s remaining player on the treatment table, Jack Colback, is expected back ahead of schedule after suffering an ankle injury at Wigan earlier this month.
“Jack is improving and the physios are pretty happy with him,” said O’Neill. “It might be slightly less time than we feared.”