LONG-TERM injury victims Craig Gordon and David Meyler will take significant steps on the road to recovery next week.
The duo have spent the summer in rehabilitation from serious knee injuries which ruled them out of the final months of last season.
But the end is in sight for both players. Gordon is set to resume training at the tail end of next week after being sidelined since February with a tendinitis problem that eventually required an operation.
Meyler is further along in the road to recovery after returning to full training at the start of the month following his second bout of ligament damage, sustained in January’s win at Aston Villa.
The 22-year-old, who spent three weeks with a knee specialist in Vermont, U.S. during the summer, is set to feature for the reserves at Chelsea on Monday, although the Irish midfielder will need several outings for the second string before he is ready for first-team consideration.
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce said: “We expect Gordon to resume training at the back end of next week and we think Meyler is going to play his first game next week for the reserves as well.
“He’s been training now since the start of August and he’s trained all summer since going to the U.S.
“At the moment, he’s okay, but he’ll need quite a few games before he’s in contention.
“He had a really serious injury, but if anyone can get back, it’s him.”
The return of Meyler and Gordon will further boost Bruce’s options, although both will face a fierce fight to feature for the first team.
Despite Bruce being a big fan of the tenacious Meyler, Sunderland have a wealth of midfielders, with the likes of Craig Gardner, Jack Colback, Lee Cattermole and David Vaughan all vying for the central spots.
Gordon faces an even tougher task following Sunderland’s summer acquisition of Republic of Ireland stopper Keiren Westwood.
With Westwood and Simon Mignolet battling for the goalkeeper’s jersey, Gordon is vulnerable to being offloaded after reaching the final 12 months of his contract.
Even if his return to fitness does not necessarily lead to a return to Sunderland’s first-team, it will significantly boost the interest in the Scotland stopper, with the likes of Celtic and Arsenal monitoring Gordon’s situation on Wearside.