WES Brown may yet return to Sunderland duty this season, according to Martin O’Neill.
The Black Cats boss has labelled the return of long-term absentee Brown a “possibility”, and has revealed that promising defender John Egan is also on the road to recovery after a horrific leg break suffered while on loan at Bradford City.
Despite the Ireland under-21 defender being ruled out for the rest of the campaign, the Sunderland boss has confirmed that the club will be extending his contract at the end of the season to give him “every chance” of making a recovery.
That is positive news for a player at the start of his career, while there is cautious optimism for a defender at the end of end of his time in the game.
Brown has not pulled out on a pair of boots in anger for Sunderland this year after suffering a knee injury in pre-season that has proved difficult to rehabilitate.
He trained with the team in Dubai during their warm weather training camp, though, and is back with the first team again – although he is taking breaks to nurse him through his recovery.
There is no prospect of him returning in the next fortnight, but O’Neill says a comeback between now and May is not out of the question for the
injury-plagued former Manchester United man.
“Wes trained with us for a couple of days out there in Dubai. It was good and he’s continued it here,” O’Neill said.
“He missed out on Thursday but had trained on Wednesday – it’s one of those gradual things. It would be great if he could eventually completed, let’s say, a fortnight’s training without having to take a break.
“He’s been out a long, long time so I’m not expecting miracles. I’m not expecting him to be participating with us in the next two weeks or anything like that, but if he could be as fit as he possibly can at some stage between now and the end of the season at least it would give him some comfort.
“The way things are going at the moment (there’s still hope for the season). But every time I’ve been asked before I’ve tread carefully but said he’ll be fine and then he’s had a setback.”
For another long-term absentee Egan there is better news.
The defender was impressing during his time at Valley Parade before suffering a sickening leg break before Christmas. The bitter disappointment of a long-term injury was compounded by the sight of his loan replacement Curtis Good playing in a League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
O’Neill accepts that must have been hard to take but had words of comfort for a player that clearly has a bright future in the game, possibly even in the Sunderland first team in the future.
“John is progressing,” he said.
“He’s going well. It’ll be pre-season before we see him back again but we’ll want to extend his contract anyway, if that’s the case just to give him every chance and to show we’re behind him, as it were. It’s been devastating for him. He went down there (to Bradford), he had the choice of two or three clubs, he’s going fine in the games, the reports have been decent and then suddenly he gets injured. And look at what happened to them.
“He’s had a tough time. His father died not long ago so it’s been a pretty tough year for him. If heart and desire are anything to go he will cake-walk it (his career) – we’ll just see how he comes back from this now.”
l FULHAM forward Bryan Ruiz believes the club have come out of their recent slump in form ahead of Saturday’s trip to the Stadium of Light, and hopes the 1-0 win over Stoke means the Cottagers can now target a top-ten finish.
A stunning Dimitar Berbatov volley on the cusp of half-time was enough to settle a forgettable fixture in which Stoke’s Jonathan Walters saw a second-half penalty saved by Mark Schwarzer.
Costa Rica international Ruiz wants Martin Jol’s side to maintain their momentum for the remainder of the season, with a place in the top half up for grabs. “We had a difficult period where we had bad results but we were playing not so well,” he said. “Now we are playing very good and getting the good results so hopefully we can finish the rest of the season playing good and getting the most points we can.”