Jordan Pickford could be a doubt for the start of Sunderland’s friendly programme after sustaining a thigh injury.
Pickford is understood to have been unable to participate in Sunderland’s final few sessions at their Austrian training base, as the Black Cats concluded their nine-day stint in the Alps.
Sunderland’s squad flew back to the North East yesterday afternoon and Pickford’s injury will now be assessed by the club’s medical staff.
However, with Sunderland beginning their schedule of six friendlies at Hartlepool United on Wednesday night, the England Under-21 keeper could be a doubt for the encounter at Victoria Park.
Pickford should be in contention to battle Vito Mannone for the number one jersey at the start of the season though, despite the Italian’s contribution to Sunderland’s survival last year.
Both Pickford and Mannone have impressed goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker in Austria, along with youngster Max Stryjek.
“This time last year we had another senior goalkeeper – Costel Pantilimon – and Jordan was in a similar position to the one Max is in now,” said Tucker.
“But we felt it was important for him to go out on loan play games and he’s done that, matured over the past 12 months and is ready to kick on.
“He has to push, as does Vito, to become No 1 for the start of the season and even though Vito ended the season well there are no guarantees he will start, so it’s up to Jordan to prove himself to the boss and up to Vito to stay where he is.
“That competition is important for both of them and they push each other through a rivalry, but they also have a great relationship and a real friendliness.”
He addd: “The first few days back are always going to be tough, but they’ve come back in good shape.
“Their fitness levels are quite high and they’ve got back into the swings of things so we’ve been able to progress quickly.
“Pre-season for ‘keepers can be done in many different ways, but personally I like to get the balls out as quickly as possible, but as I said it’s important to build that base of endurance before moving onto the technical side.