Tom Flanagan admits he feared he could have been out until Christmas after picking up a knee injury in early August.
Flanagan had been a vital player in the early stages of Jack Ross’s tenure, playing almost minute of pre-season as the Black Cats boss rebuilt his squad.
A collision with Lynden Gooch days before the Charlton game checked his progress, however, and left the 26-year-old fearing the worst.
Flanagan made his full league debut for the Black Cats in the 4-1 win over Rochdale and impressed at right-back.
The Northern Ireland defender was thrilled to be able to make a contribution.
“I was really pleased to get a start in, although it’s about a month and a half too late in my eyes. The injury was a pain but it’s oand done with now, I’m feeling fit. I was pleased to get through the 90, I’ll feel it on Sunday morning though!
“I was really worried when it first happened. It happened on the Tuesday before the first game of the season. It was innocuous but I was in real, real pain.
“I just sort of went over, there was a challenge with Gooch but I didn’t quite get there. My knee swelled and I was in a lot of pain, the physio wasn’t sure what had happened.
“There was a similar injury last year but when we went for the scan it was clear, which was a surprise. So we just had to let it settle down, because it was a joint injury,” he added.
“It took a lot longer than I thought but at one point we worried it would be until Christmas.
“So when I was in the gym I had to keep telling myself that it could have been worse. I got back quicker because I’m here. The facilities and the medical staff are just absolutely second to none. That’s been good.”
Flanagan said that Sunderland’s squad would have to be prepared for injuries, particularly given the punishing League One schedule.
The right-back praised Josh Maja for stepping up while Charlie Wyke has been sidelined and says the rest of the squad must take their lead from that.
“It’s football. You only have to look at what happened with Charlie last week. It’s going to take 30 of us to get promoted. You need to be at your best when you’re called upon, Josh has shown that. Hopefully we won’t get any more injuries, there’s good competition for places.
“Sitting and watching the first game of the season was the worst thing, that was the hardest part. But it’s a long season and very few players get through it unscathed.
“It’s tough, there’s no international break, and I’ve been getting stick for that because I didn’t get called up! That was my fault apparently!
“It’s strange for the group that we’ve got because a lot of them are used to it. It’s part of the experience, we only want to be here for one season and to do that we’ve got to grin and bear it, get on with it.”