Sunderland ace Kieran Richardson in fitness fight

INJURY BLOW ... Kieran Richardson.
INJURY BLOW ... Kieran Richardson.

KIERAN Richardson’s chances of returning to the fold for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final have been hit after the Sunderland left-back suffered a relapse in training.

Richardson missed last Saturday’s victory over Liverpool after succumbing to the calf strain sustained in the closing stages of the Tyne-Wear derby six days earlier.

Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill had been hopeful of having Richardson back at his disposal for this weekend’s trip to Goodison Park as Sunderland look to secure a place in the final four of the cup.

But the 27-year-old was troubled by the injury when he returned to training earlier this week, with O’Neill now forced to play a waiting game over the former Manchester United man’s condition.

O’Neill told the Gazette: “Kieran did a little bit of training on Monday and felt something again.

“We’ll see what he’s like towards the end of the week.

“I would have been hopeful that after missing the Liverpool game, everything would be alright, but we’ll see how he is.”

On-loan Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge took Richardson’s place against Liverpool and enjoyed a solid first start in red and white, helping Sunderland to a fourth clean sheet in eight games.

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It was the 31-year-old’s first Premier League start since last May after being frozen out at City and being forced to bide his time for first-team involvement at the Stadium of Light following his January transfer deadline day arrival.

But O’Neill believes the former England international has been happy to be patient for an opportunity with the Black Cats after falling so dramatically down the pecking order under Roberto Mancini.

“Bridge did fine after such a long time out of the game,” added O’Neill.

“He was very pleased to have got the game, and I think he’s enjoying it here.

“At least he’s involved at first-team level in the Premiership. That wouldn’t have been happening to him, with the best will in the world, if he had been staying at Manchester City.”