Sunderland received a blow to their survival chances today after Martin O'Neill revealed skipper Lee Cattermole is unlikely to feature again this season. The Northern Irishman told the Sunderland Echo earlier:
We hope for the best but, to me, if he (Cattermole) comes back this season, then that would be a bonus - and an unexpected bonus. We may have to cope without him and even if he does successfully come back from the injury, he will still be nowhere near match fit.
We have had to do without him pretty much all season. He has definitely been a loss to us, no question about that. We have missed that drive, the things that he would give us, but we have had to make do without it.
The news is not entirely unexpected, as Cattermole has suffered with severe injury problems all season, but it remains a big blow to a team that has lacked any fight or leadership over the past few weeks.
Elsewhere David Vaughan has pulled out of Wales' World Cup qualifying clash with Scotland on Friday due to an unspecified injury. The Welshman could be fit for his countries game against Croatia the following Tuesday, and therefore may also be in contention for Sunderland's next match at home to Manchester United; a prospect that will no doubt be giving Sir Alex Ferguson sleepless nights.
In more positive news, the club revealed today that the private investigator hired to find Wes Brown has finally come up with results, and the England international played his first 90 minutes of football this season for the Development Squad in a friendly against Blackpool this afternoon.
While Brown has had many false dawns during his rehabilitation, this is the most promising step forward we've seen, and raises the possibility that he may feature in the end of season run-in. Considering the lack of quality in the sides defence, this would be a huge boost to Sunderland's hopes of retaining their Premier League status for another year.