SUNDERLAND defender Wes Brown today arrived back in Britain from the club’s pre-season trip to Korea hoping his knee injury is nowhere near as serious as was first feared.
The vastly experienced defender will undergo a scan as soon as possible that will determine whether he has badly damaged ligaments. If this is the prognosis then it could be the case that it would keep him out of action for much of the rest of this year.
Brown injured his knee during the club’s final match in the Far East, a 3-2 win over Dutch outfit FC Groningen.
Early signs were not good with knee ligament damage being diagnosed by the club’s medical staff, which if true could mean him being sidelined for anything up to three months.
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill admitted he was worried about his player who would only discover the full extent of his injury when swelling on the knee had settled down after the squad’s return to England.
If the ligaments have been badly damaged then it would be a massive blow for a player desperate to prove to Sunderland fans that his signing was not an expensive mistake.
Brown, who turns 33 in October, has been plagued by problems since he arrived at the Stadium of Light last summer.
He started the first 20 Premier League games of the season, but then a groin strain picked up against Manchester City on New Year’s Day was followed by a knee injury suffered in a FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough and that ended his season.
Ironically, in an interview last week, Brown said he expected good things from Sunderland this season as long as the squad could stay clear of serious injury and
admitted he was excited to get his career in the North East properly up and running.
Sunderland’s trip to South Korea to take part in the Peace Cup has not been kind to them, with Carlos Cuellar and Simon Mignolet also picking up knocks, although neither are thought to be serious. And defenders Phil Bardsley and Matt Kilgallon didn’t make the trip to Asia due to injuries they were carrying.
Losing even one player was the last thing the Sunderland manager wanted.
While Brown has hardly set the heather on fire on Wearside, for obvious reasons, he would be seen very much as O’Neill’s type of player. The former Manchester United star’s age would be seen as a plus point for the Sunderland manager, who likes his defenders in particular to have experience.
O’Neill admitted it would be a “big blow” to lose Brown for any length of time.
Brown played 362 times for Manchester United where he won every domestic trophy and the Champions League in 2008. He retired from the international scene two years ago after winning 23 caps with England.
Former Black Cats boss Steve Bruce signed him and fellow Old Trafford graduate John O’Shea last pre-season for an undisclosed fee.
HEARTS captain Marius Zaliukas believes the Clydesdale Bank Premier League will be a tougher competition without Rangers.
The 28-year-old defender feels teams will be targeting Champions League qualification after the rejection of newco Rangers’ application to play in the SPL.
“I think it is probably going to be harder now because all teams will want to achieve second place and it is going to be a hard season,” he said.
“Obviously fighting for honours is our target, but it depends how we negotiate the season.
“Our target is to get the maximum, compete with Celtic and do well in both cups.”