SUNDERLAND skipper Lee Cattermole is aiming to return ahead of schedule from a serious knee injury.
The Black Cats midfielder had been ruled out of action until the second week of February with ligament damage but he is already running again – and Martin O’Neill has revealed that Cattermole hopes to make his comeback sooner than first predicted.
Sunderland have actually done pretty well without their captain, who picked up his injury during the dire goalless draw with QPR – but O’Neill would love to get their talisman back.
“Lee is doing pretty well, so I think he feels he is slightly ahead of schedule at this minute,” he said.
“He’s done a bit of straight running, that hasn’t caused him a problem. I think it’s just the movement side-to-side at this minute, but however long it will be, he’s in a better position.”
Of the players who are available today, O’Neill admits he has concerns over a couple who have picked up knocks.
But he hinted that he will continue to deploy Craig Gardner at right-back, a position where he has excelled recently.
“He has done brilliantly. We lost Phil Bardsley a couple of games in to pre-season, it’s been difficult for him to squeeze in some proper fitness work,” he said.
“That is always hanging over him. Craig has slotted in at full-back and taken to it very well indeed. He has felt accomplished.
“He can see the game from that position. He likes to get forward because he has an explosive shot, he feels he could get up to double figures from midfield. It is a bit of a dilemma, he is going great.”
Meanwhile, vice captain John O’Shea is in contention for the visit of Tottenham – although O’Neill hinted that the game may have come a bit too early for him.
He said: “John O’Shea is feeling a bit better. Not 100%, but feeling better.”