SUNDERLAND’S players have been told to forget about sulking and make the most of their team-mates’ misfortune.
An injury to Steven Fletcher – ruling him, like captain Lee Cattermole out for the season – has put added pressure on Danny Graham.
But Martin O’Neill has told his striker to rise to the occasion and – like he has – take encouragement from signs of a revival in winger James McClean’s form.
The Gateshead-born striker is yet to score since January’s £5m move, but was well used to playing as a lone striker at Swansea City.
“I’m sure he is looking for a goal,” said O’Neill. “It would have been great if he had got off to the start Fletcher got off to. But there is now every opportunity for him to do well. (Fletcher) will be missed. It is an opportunity that awaits someone else now.
“He is in a non-weight-bearing contraption and the specialist will assess in a fortnight.
“Even if he does need an operation, they are hoping he doesn’t, then the operation itself will be four weeks longer than a normal operation so you are looking at between ten and 16 weeks.
“We’ve got to get on with it. The injury to Fletcher is a blow to us but we have got to get on with it.
“I didn’t expect to get through all of the international matches unscathed. It’s now about opportunities for other people.”
If Fletcher’s knee injury sustained against Wales was the darkest Sunderland cloud of the international break, McClean’s performances for Republic of Ireland were the silver lining.
“It is good to see him come back and it looks as if he has a bit of refreshment,” said O’Neill. “Over the course of the season he has been disappointed with some of his performances but he has that hunger and determination to do well.
“He is re-enthused and ready to go.”