MICHAEL Turner insists Sunderland will be able to cope without talisman Lee Cattermole, who has been slapped with a four-match ban for his derby-day indiscipline.
The Black Cats captain picked up a first-minute booking for a wild tackle on Cheick Tiote before being shown a straight red card for foul and abusive language towards referee Mike Dean after the final whistle.
The club have confirmed Cattermole (pictured left) is now out of action until Sunderland’s visit to Manchester City on March 31.
That run of games includes the FA Cup fourth-round trip to Everton – a game tephane Sessegnon also misses after being handed a three-match ban for being sent off in the second half of Sunday’s tempestuous derby clash.
Sunderland have options in reserve with Jack Colback having stepped up a gear since Martin O’Neill’s appointment.
However, Cattermole’s form of late has been such his omission will be keenly felt by the Wearsiders.
Sessegnon, too, has been in fine form although, with England striker Fraizer Campbell back to full fitness, the Black Cats do have a ready-made replacement.
Plus, striker Nicklas Bendtner delivered one of the most tireless performances of his inconsistent loan spell so far on Sunday at St James’ Park.
Turner acknowledges it is far from ideal to be missing two key players for such important fixtures, but is adamant Sunderland have replacements in reserve who can push them closer to Wembley.
The defender said: “It is bad news we will miss them both.
“They are key players in our team so someone will have to come in and fill their boots.
“The squad is fairly big now. We had a few senior players not even on the bench at Newcastle, so we need other players to step up to the plate now.
“We have to show we can play without those guys.
“We have to forget about them. As much as we would like to have them in the team, they are suspended and there is nothing we can do about it.
“People will have to come in and fill their places and aim to keep their place.”
Although Sunderland did not close out the game to earn more than a point, Turner was magnificent alongside John O’Shea as they stood firm in the midst of fierce second-half Newcastle pressure.
The centre-back admits to disappointment at the way they eventually conceded, but took plenty of comfort from the way they had played for the previous 91 minutes.
The 28-year-old said: “It was always going to be hard to defend in that second half and it looked as if we had weathered it.
“Sessegnon got himself sent off, so it was a huge battle for us.
“We looked fairly comfortable, even if they had plenty of corners and shots, and we felt we were in control of the situation. It was just disappointing to concede so late.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s hopes of sparking a bidding war for Asamoah Gyan have been boosted with news a Qatari club have made an offer for the Ghana striker.
Despite banking an estimated £6million loan fee when Gyan moved to Al-Ain back in September, the Black Cats are looking to recoup their £13.1m investment in the forward if they allow him to leave.
Although there have been mixed messages from both club and player about Gyan’s future it is unlikely he will return and his advisors seem keen to encourage interest in the 26-year-old.
O’Neill had originally suggested he wanted to explore the possibility of bringing Gyan back to Sunderland but seems more lukewarm on that idea of late.
With the Black Cats looking to rebuild this summer, he may welcome the extra funds selling the club’s record signing would raise.