WES BROWN has no chance of returning to the fold for Sunderland’s trip to Stoke City next week.
Sunderland centre-halves John O’Shea and Santiago Vergini endured a miserable afternoon in Saturday’s collapse against Crystal Palace after the Black Cats shipped four goals in 14 shambolic minutes.
But with only on-loan Liverpool man Sebastian Coates and 19-year-old Tom Beadling in reserve, Dick Advocaat has little option to tinker with his central defensive options at the Britannia Stadium in 11 days time.
Advocaat has confirmed that Brown will not be in contention by then, with the former England international still recovering from the knee injury which could ultimately bring a premature end to his season.
Brown was expected to be out for six weeks after damaging his knee at West Ham in Advocaat’s first game in charge last month, even though Sunderland harboured some hope that his recovery could be sooner.
The 35-year-old will not return until next month, leaving him facing a battle to return to match sharpness by the final few games of the relegation dogfight.
Given Brown’s Sunderland contract expires in the summer, the ex-Manchester United man could even be battling to play competitively again.
With Seb Larsson serving the second of his two-match ban against Stoke, Advocaat’s options are likely to be the same as they were against Palace.
Midfielder Lee Cattermole – mooted to be a fresh target for Stoke in reports over the weekend – is fully fit, despite coming off with 25 minutes to go in the 4-1 defeat to Palace.
Advocaat has confirmed that he withdrew Cattermole as a precaution to ensure he didn’t pick up a second yellow card, rather than the Teessider suffering an injury.
“I took him off in case something happened because he was really frustrated,” said Advocaat.