Nicklas Bendtner is ready to face Fulham

STRIKER Nicklas Bendtner is expected to be fit to face Fulham on Saturday after recovering from illness.

Nicklas Bendtner

STRIKER Nicklas Bendtner is expected to be fit to face Fulham on Saturday after recovering from illness.

The Denmark international flew home after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Manchester United complaining of a heavy cold.

It was initially thought that the player on loan from Arsenal would miss his country’s friendly at home to Sweden this evening.

But having declared himself fit for tonight’s game, the chances of him facing the Cottagers are looking good.

“I’m still sick, but I’ve trained okay and the international match against Sweden should be no problem,” said the 23-year-old.

The Black Cats will be desperate for him to play when they return to Premier League action at the Stadium of Light.

Although the knee injury which forced Connor Wickham off in the fourth minute against Manchester United is not as bad as is first thought, he must be a doubt for the Fulham game until further news is forthcoming. The 18-year-old twisted his knee badly under an innocuous Rio Ferdinand challenge, and damaged his ligaments.

Bendtner has arguably been Sunderland’s best player since joining from Arsenal on deadline day until the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa have laughed off talk of a January move for Charles N’Zogbia from Sunderland.

Black Cats manager Steve Bruce is a long-time admirer of the midfielder, who he took to Wigan Athletic from Newcastle United.

But his chance of signing the temperamental Frenchman looked to have been and gone when he turned down a return to the North East in favour of joining Villa last summer.

Giving the difficult task of

replacing the popular Ashley Young, N’Zogbia (pictured right) has struggled to make an impact in the west Midlands, and has been left on the bench for two Premier League matches, leading to talk of another move.

But Villa assistant manager Peter Grant cast doubt on whether Sunderland could afford the £9.5m signing, and suggested Villa would only consider selling to a Champions League club.

“You know what football’s like, people talk about somebody moving every day,” he said. “I think it was Benty (Darren Bent) last week, now it’s Charles. I don’t know who it will be next!

“People are talking about players going here, there and everywhere. Sunderland must have a few bob left if they are going to try and buy Charles.

“Listen, top players are always going to be linked with other clubs, but if players leave here they should only be going to top four clubs because there’s not many clubs bigger than this one.

“In terms of the stadium, the history and the fans this is a big club and what we want to do is make it somewhere that everybody wants to come and play and that the boys here want to stay at.”

Like Bruce, Grant’s boss Alex McLeish is a long-time admirer of N’Zogbia’s, and in his interview with the club’s official website, the former Celtic player stressed that Villa will persevere with him.

“We feel in the last few weeks that Charles is starting to get there,” he continued.

“The boys appreciate his talent because they see it on the training ground. That’s why we’re confident that there’s a lot more to come from him.”

Bruce is yet to be told his budget for the forthcoming transfer window and although a left-winger could well feature on his wishlist, it seems his pursuit of N’Zogbia has come to an end – at least for now.

For now he has enough on his plate dealing with the players he has. Titus Bramble will appear before Teesside Crown Court on 5 January. He yesterday pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and did not enter a plea on a charge of urinating in public.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer