Sunderland handed massive fitness boost as ex-Tottenham winger makes his mark

Daniel Ballard is on track to make his Sunderland return after the upcoming World Cup break.

Ballard made a major impression in his opening appearances for the Black Cats but has been absent since the early stages of the 2-2 draw with QPR due to a foot injury.

Sunderland posted pictures of the 23-year-old back on the Academy of Light pitches on Thursday, as he steps up his recovery under supervision of the club's medical department.

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Head coach Tony Mowbray hopes that he will rejoin full training during the World Cup break next month, clearing the way for him to face former club Millwall at the Stadium of Light on December 3rd.

Sunderland winger Jack Clarke is the Sky Bet Championship Goal of the Month winner for September.

Sunderland winger wins award

Sunderland winger Jack Clarke has won the Sky Bet Championship Goal of the Month for September for a stunning team goal against Reading.

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The ex-Tottenham winger beat Blackburn Rovers’ Dominic Hyam, Stoke City’s Lewis Baker and Luton Town’s Henri Lansbury to the award.

An EFL statement read: “There is something mesmerising about back-to-front team goals. Seven players, four first-time passes and a caressed finish by Clarke. It was a fitting final touch to a beautifully crafted move.”

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Clarke said: “I’m delighted to receive this award, but the goal was a real team effort from back to front and highlights the type of football we’ve been trying to play this season. We always look to play out from the back and the goal shows how effective it can be.”

Lead Sky Bet EFL Goal of the Month judge and Sky Sports Pundit Don Goodman said: “Ruthless efficiency from Tony Mowbray’s Sunderland, as they tore through Reading in a 7-pass sequence which a Pep Guardiola team would be proud of.

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“It was Clarke that converted the chance coolly, but the whole team deserve credit for one of the most breath-taking moves you’re likely to see all season.”

Sunderland host Burnley on Saturday, with some positive news for the weeks ahead.

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Sunderland hope that Daniel Ballard will join Ross Stewart in giving the squad a stronger look after the World Cup break, with Aji Alese also aiming to return then following his ankle injury in midweek.

And while Sunderland will continue to be cautious with him, Niall Huggins' successful first appearance in the U21s raises the prospect of his future return.