LEE Cattermole has received a fitness boost as a scan on his injured knee ruled out ligament damage and paved the way for his first-team return – possibly as early as against Fulham this weekend.
The midfielder missed the trip to Everton after picking up an injury in training on Friday and there were genuine concerns that he might be missing for weeks after his knee swelled up significantly following an accidental clash of knees with Phil Bardsley in training.
But after a scan yesterday, Cattermole was told that there was no ligament damage or lasting muscle problems and he was given a “50-50” chance of being available for the game at Craven Cottage on Sunday. That will be a massive boost for Martin O’Neill, who would not have been happy about the prospect of going into such a crucial match without the services of one of his key men.
Cattermole revealed the good news by Tweeting last night: “Nice phone call off the club doc has made me a very happy lad this evening”. Sunderland’s lack of resources led to James McFadden and Titus Bramble being included in the matchday squad despite the manager originally hoping to give them another week.
But the Black Cats’ squad is not blessed with strength in depth and another setback for defender Phil Bardsley on the eve of the Everton game exacerbated the problems facing O’Neill.
He is also an early doubt for the weekend trip to West London although he is not due to visit a specialist at the moment.
If Sunderland’s injury seem to mostly centre on their defensive players, they at least emerged from another weekend of disappointment with the bonus of having found the back of the net.
Adam Johnson’s opportunistic strike just before the interval was the first goal scored by one of their own players since the 1-0 defeat of Wigan on September 29 and was symptomatic of a more encouraging display by the Black Cats. In addition to that goal, there was also a much-improved contribution from Stephane Sessegnon, the Benin forward who has been so disappointing this term. He feels that there was much cause for optimism despite a defeat that leaves the team far too close to the relegation zone for comfort.
“I think, attacking-wise, it was our best match of the season so far and there were lots of positives to take,” he said.
“We were dangerous on the counter-attack and in the end, it was hard luck because I think if we had got a second goal, it would have been enough to win.”
The Black Cats’ Under-21s lost 2-1 at Aston Villa yesterday.