KIERAN Richardson is predicting no more mid-season slumps for Sunderland after Steve Bruce’s summer recruitment drive gave them a fighting chance of warding off any injury crisis.
The Black Cats saw their hopes of a push for Europe ravaged by a succession of trauma injuries to top players last spring, a situation which saw them reduced to filling their bench with promising Academy players for most of the last month of the season.
That nightmare scenario motivated manager Steve Bruce in the transfer market this summer as he looked to add bulk and numbers, as well as ability, to his Black Cats squad.
Eight new arrivals have given him cover in every key position, and should mitigate against another nose dive as the season reaches its business end. A high-tech GPS system has also been invested in to help the club’s medical staff keep track of the condition of key men.
Richardson is one of several members of the Sunderland squad coming back from serious injuries and feels he is reaching his peak again after a long period out.
He said: “Last season, maybe the squad was a bit light in certain areas. Now, there seems to be a much better spread. Hopefully, there won’t be the gaps any more.
“When we got injuries last season, there were times when we looked a little bit light. Hopefully, this season, even if there are injuries, we’ll have players who can come in and do as good a job as the person who’s been playing on a regular basis.
“That’s great and, as a club, that’s what we need to progress and get an even better position this season.”
One potential problem with investing so much in the summer is whether the team will click in time for the big kick-off but Richardson (pictured right) reckons the timing of the signings has helped ensure that isn’t an issue.
“It’s good that the players came in early because we’ve had a chance to work with them right through pre-season,” he said.
“It can be difficult when players are coming and going at the last minute once the season is under way. We needed to make quite a few changes this summer and it’s good that we’ve done that early on. It takes time for players to get to know each other and gel, but we’ve had that.
“All the new lads seem good characters, I’m sure they’ll do well for Sunderland.”
Incredibly, Richardson is now the longest-serving player at the club after a raft of changes in recent summers. He reckons that shows how committed he is to the Black Cat cause.
“It came as a bit of a surprise,” he said. “That’s football I suppose, people come and go and the squad changes on a fairly regular basis.
“But hopefully it also says something about how much I’ve given to Sunderland, and how happy I’ve been here.
“I’d like to think I’ve contributed a little bit to Sunderland becoming established in the Premier League, and hopefully I’ll be hanging around a bit longer to help drive them forward. This is my club now – and I want to help in whatever way I can.”
Sunderland travel across the Pennines to take on Burnley this afternoon without John O’Shea, who is battling to be fit for the start of the season after suffering a hamstring injury in the pre-season tour of Germany.
The former Manchester United man is still having treatment on the injury and won’t be risked either at Turf Moor or on Tuesday, when Sunderland make the short trip to Hartlepool for Ritchie Humphreys’ testimonial.
But Bruce said: “I have no worries about John. He was not involved against Kilmarnock and I am not looking at risking him in our next two friendlies – it is a case of erring on the side of caution.”