MARTIN O’Neill admits Lee Cattermole’s precarious disciplinary situation is giving him food for thought ahead of tomorrow’s trip to the Hawthorns.
Cattermole collected his ninth yellow card of the season in last weekend’s FA Cup success against Arsenal – leaving him just one booking away from a two-game suspension.
Black Cats boss O’Neill is wary of losing Cattermole for the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday week and will consider the Sunderland skipper’s involvement against West Brom this weekend.
O’Neill told the Gazette: “I’ll have a think about it.
“It’s unlikely that Lee will see it through until April 8 without getting another booking. We’d need a lot of postponements!
“It’s a two-match ban as well if he gets another booking, so it’s a problem.
“But then you can afflict yourself with it if you start thinking about it too much.”
Regardless of Cattermole’s involvement tomorrow, O’Neill is considering changing the side which triumphed against the Gunners in the FA Cup fifth round.
O’Neill deployed a five-man midfield against Arsenal, with striker Fraizer Campbell restricted to a brief cameo as a late substitute.
But as Sunderland look to take advantage of West Brom’s three-month run without a home victory, O’Neill has the option of installing Campbell back in the starting line-up along with fellow striker Nicklas Bendtner, available again after he was ineligible against parent club Arsenal following his recovery from a broken nose.
“I think Fraizer and Bendtner will come into contention tomorrow,” said O’Neill.
“Fraizer played most of the game on the right-hand side in the league game against Arsenal and I’m well aware that while he’s played a lot of times there, it’s not really the position I envisage him in.
“Bendtner’s been training with us now for some considerable time.
“Obviously he was ineligible to play against Arsenal, but he’s ready now. Of course, Nick thinks he’s always ready so that’s not a problem.
“I’ve been pleased with his performances here. I think he’s done well and there’s definitely more to come from him.
“Just recently, it’s been a bit stop-start with the injury. I thought he did pretty well at Stamford Bridge, then we came back and he only lasted 10 minutes or so against Swansea.
“Fraizer Campbell has come into the fold as well and he’s given us a big boost.
“But then last Saturday against Arsenal, Bendtner aside, it was probably as strong a squad as I’ve been able to choose from since the Blackburn game.
“With the two loan players coming in, they’ve given us a boost although they’ve not been able to force their way in because the team’s been playing pretty well.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland midfielder David Vaughan is closing in on a return after recovering from an ankle injury.
While tomorrow’s game may come just too soon for Vaughan, O’Neill believes the Welsh international will be fit for Wednesday’s Gary Speed memorial match against Costa Rica.
O’Neill added: “David’s coming on really well.
“Last week he was feeling really good and he’s been out running with the physios and fitness coach. I think he would be fit for the Wales game next week.”