SUNDERLAND expect to find out in the next 48 hours how bad their latest injury is but even if their worst fears over Connor Wickham are realised, there will be no recall for Asamoah Gyan.
Wickham damaged knee ligaments in Sunderland’s 1-0 defeat at Manchester United after twisting awkwardly in an innocuous challenge with Rio Ferdinand.
The 18-year-old striker will undergo scans today or tomorrow, but manager Steve Bruce’s gloomy face spoke volumes.
“We think it’s a serious knee injury,” he said. “That is now seven we’ve had in 12 months, if it’s diagnosed (as) what we think it is. We hope it’s not that bad but it doesn’t look good.”
David Meyler damaged his cruciate knee ligaments in Sunderland’s final home game of 2009-10, starting a sequence of seven serious knee injuries before the weekend. The Irishman suffered a recurrence in January and is only now returning, although Saturday’s impressive 14-minute substitute appearance suggests he is recovering well.
“Meyler did his knee against Man U, Fraizer Campbell (twice), Craig Gordon, Titus Bramble, (plus Michael Turner). Unbelievable,” said Bruce.
“I’ve never known anything like it. You would hope the scans aren’t too bad.”
Wickham was making only his third Sunderland start, seven days after his maiden Premier League goal.
Barring a remarkable recovery, Bruce will have only two recognised centre-forwards for the visit of Fulham a week on Saturday. Nicklas Bendtner is on loan from Arsenal, Ji Dong-Won is yet to start for Sunderland. Stéphane Sessègnon is another option, but has reverted to the left wing for the last three games to good effect.
Record signing Gyan is on a season-long loan at United Arab Emirates club Al-Ain. Black Cats sources were quick to rubbish talk of a recall. The Ghanaian was allowed to leave outside the European transfer window because Bruce was unhappy with his attitude.
Wickham’s injury was not the only cause Bruce had to curse his luck. Saturday’s only goal was scored by Wes Brown on his first appearance against his old club. “It’s three times I’ve been with Sunderland and we’ve conceded an own goal – Anton Ferdinand twice and on Saturday,” Bruce said. “Wes was terrific, as were my back four. It’s unfortunate. Sometimes these things happen.”
The own goal was Brown’s fourth in the Premier League. Ferdinand officially only has one against Manchester United, in the 2009 2-2 draw, but one of Dimitar Berbatov’s two goals on Boxing Day 2010 deflected off him.
Bruce, who criticised the officials for mishandling a correct decision not to award a second-half penalty, was delighted with his side. “I cannot help but praise them again,” he said.
“Nobody watching would say we’ve played badly once (at Old Trafford under Bruce) but we haven’t really amassed the points we’ve deserved. We’ve got the makings of a very, very good side and we’ve now been to Liverpool, Arsenal, Man U and put up a great show every time.
“No disrespect to the teams we’ve got coming up but they’re not Man Us, Arsenals or Chelseas. Hopefully we can take a few points off them.” The game was played the day before the 25th anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson’s appointment as United manager.
“It wasn’t easy for us coming here (under those circumstances),” Bruce reflected. “Everyone was expecting Man U to win for him. It’s great credit to us that we were able to play the way we did. It put extra pressure on the officials too.”
Lee Cattermole was recalled after two games on the bench, but Brown wore the captain’s armband.
“It was just pure sentiment,” Bruce explained. “He’s been (at United) since he was 12 years old and he deserved against Sir Alex’s team to lead the team out.”