Lee Johnson has delivered the latest on his Sunderland squad’s fitness ahead of Saturday’s visit to Fleetwood Town.
The Head Coach firstly gave an update on Denver Hume, who is still in the process of regaining full sharpness after last week penning his new contract at the club.
“Denver is progressing well, we’ve had three pretty intense days of training – two on the pitch and one off it – so he probably needs a day’s rest, but he’s moving well as he always does, looking powerful.
“We have to be careful with it to make sure it’s not a reoccurring injury as it has been before, but we’ve been happy with what we’ve seen.”
It has been almost a full year since injury struck for Arbenit Xhemajli without him having featured in a Sky Bet League One match for the Lads – but with his return being increasingly anticipated by supporters, Johnson claimed the Kosovan defender has come through full training very well this week.
“Arby has been out there training properly for the last two days. He’s still a bit of a way off a full return, but it’s heart-warming to see because I know how hard he and the physio department have had to work to get him to this point.
“We still have to protect him – it was a really bad injury that he suffered and I’m almost wincing every time he goes into a 50/50. But every time he comes out of it, the belief among myself and him and everyone else becomes stronger. He’s a great professional who has come through a difficult time, and I think he feels like he belongs here.”
Other players talked about in Johnson’s pre-match press conference were Leon Dajaku – who could be in line for a Sunderland debut either this weekend or next Tuesday in the Carabao Cup – along with Tom Flanagan, who picked up a fifth booking of the season last time out.
“Leon is coming along well too. He was never a million miles off it, he was just unconditioned in terms of the match scenarios – we have to manage that and we have an opportunity to play him in one of the next two games, Saturday or Tuesday,” explained the gaffer.
“I definitely feel he has a start in him and anything up to 55-60 minutes, or a game-changing 15-20 minutes in the second half.
“Elsewhere, Tom Flanagan will of course be missing this weekend – he’s suspended so we know he’ll be out.”