Sunderland handed Denver Hume boost ahead of hectic run of fixtures
Lee Johnson is hopeful that he could have close to a full squad to choose from after Sunderland's Papa John's Trophy final next Sunday.
The Black Cats boss is likely to have to continue with a reshuffled backline for Saturday's visit of Rochdale, but he has been handed a series of boosts at the Academy of Light this week.
The Head Coach had a concern over Lynden Gooch, who was substituted during the 1-0 win over Swindon Town with a calf concern.
Scans have subsequently shown there is no muscle damage, giving him an outside chance of being involved tomorrow afternoon.
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Johnson could also welcome back at least one of his senior centre-halves over the next week, as well as experienced midfielder Grant Leadbitter.
Bailey Wright and Tom Flanagan are edging towards a return while Conor McLaughlin looks at this stage almost certain to be in contention to face Tranmere Rovers at Wembley.
That is particularly good news for Johnson as both Dion Sanderson and Jake Vokins will be cup tied for that game.
Perhaps most encouragingly of all, Johnson now has good reason to believe that Denver Hume could return from a hamstring problem far sooner than originally anticipated.
The 22-year-old still has a lot of progress to make before he realistically is in contention, but the signs on the training ground are nevertheless encouraging.
Here's what Johnson had to say on every player currently sidelined..
On Denver Hume...
"The speed of his recovery from this one has been surprising.
"He was part of our passing drills on Friday, he did some 1-v-1's with Ross Stewart and joined in with some patterns of play work towards the end.
"He looks good, he's obviously a great mover anwyay in terms of how he gets across the ground.
On when he could realistically return...
"You need to tick the boxes and there are obviously steps to get back to a first-team game, particularly with the kind of hamstring injury that he's had.
“The positive is that he's been in controlled training, which is good.
“He's moving well and feeling good which means we can now step it on.
“Ideally, of course, you'd want a player like that to get 90 minutes once or twice [in the U23s] before even considering a first-team return.”
On Ross Stewart...
"Ross Stewart was in training today and looks a bit closer.
“He is slightly different [to Denver Hume] as his hamstring injury was a much lower grade.
“He can be progressed a little bit quicker in terms of those boxes that need to be ticked.
On Grant Leadbitter...
"Grant we know is fit because he's played recently, so it's just a case of him being comfortable.
“He went to see a specialist, and the diagnosis was major trauma to everything in his shoulder, said Johnson.
"But it is a manageable situation. With the right strapping and the right conditions, it can be managed.
“There is a risk that it might pop out again, but I think Grant is probably willing to take that risk. Maybe not necessarily over the short term, but over the medium term as he gets stronger and starts to feel a bit more comfortable.
“He looked like an American football player today because he had a nice thick padding, but hopefully that will help him and his confidence.
“The situation will always remain the same – there’s a 50 per cent chance that his shoulder will pop out again – and if it does, then I think it will require surgery.
“But at the moment, there are protective measures we can use to aid the healing and mitigate against the chances of it popping out again.
& whether he could realistically feature at Wembley...
"If you look at him move, he 100% has a chance.
“It won't be about that, it'll be the contact, the prospect of falling over, that's the bit we haven't really had a time to properly discuss.
“Grant has been out with us on Friday but just for passing drills, not with contact.
“It'll depend on how he feels.
“He's a sensible player, he won't chase it if he's not ready.
“He knows we're competing on two fronts.
“I know that's a bit vague, nut we're not ruling him out at this stage.
On Bailey Wright...
"Bailey's calf injury, the three-week mark is really important because you have to let it heal properly.
“He's not a million miles away.
On Tom Flanagan...
"Flanno has been out there today and once fit, we shouldn't expect it to be too long or him to need much rehabilitation.
“It will be him catching up on his lung capacity more than anything.
“He's starting to look a bit stronger and he's not a million miles away either.
On Conor McLaughlin...
"Conor had an injection and he has settled well.
"There's a risk of rupture of he comes back too quickly, and when I see too quickly that means about 32,48 hours.
“So he should be another one [back soon].
“I reckon he'll train Monday, maybe Wednesday.
“Portsmouth might come too soon, it might not.
On Lynden Gooch...
"Lynden is going to have a fitness test on Saturday morning.
“He felt his calf but the scan was brilliant news, with no damage.
“That probably means it's a compressed nerve or it was cramp. At the moment we can't know that. A compressed nerve will take a little longer, if it's cramp we'll know tomorrow morning because he'll be fine.