Cattermole targets return in weeks
SUNDERLAND skipper Lee Cattermole has been back in the gym this week in the hope of making a return to Premier League action in weeks rather than months. Black Cats manager Steve Bruce has given the majority of his first team squad some time off this week, attempting to freshen things up before the trip to Everton a week on Saturday. But Cattermole has been one of those trying to improve his fitness this week after being forced on to the sidelines with a worrying back problem since December. Sunderland insist the 22-year-old will return to action well before the end of the season, despite suggestions to the contrary. And Cattermole is also confident he will be back in contention to start for Sunderland sooner rather than later, after enjoying an extended period of rehabilitation. Bruce has given the former Middlesbrough midfielder a break from the training ground, but now he is fully focused on making a full recovery after a frustrating time. It remains unlikely that he will figure at Everton in nine days time, although the club are not ruling his return out and there is an outside chance he will figure at Goodison Park. Cattermole is desperate to return as soon as possible in the hope he can help the Wearside outfit stay in the top half of the Premier League and close in on finishing in the top eight. His injury has been a major concern for Bruce, who is trying to remain hopeful that Cattermole will have a major role to play for the rest of the season. Sunderland have missed the tough tackling midfielder's physical presence in his absence and Bruce is keen to have as many options available to him as possible for the run in. After a run of three defeats in a row to Chelsea, Stoke and Tottenham, Sunderland are in need of recapturing the sort of steel that had one of the best defensive records in the top-flight up until recently. Sunderland have not kept a clean sheet since the victory at Aston Villa on January 5, a run extended to six matches when Tottenham left the Stadium of Light with three points courtesy of a 2-1 win last Saturday. Prior to that, with Cattermole a regular in the Sunderland midfield up until the start of 2011, Bruce's men had not conceded in 11 of their league fixtures. The former England Under-21 international is likely to be one of a number of players making a comeback over the next few weeks. Both Michael Turner and Fraizer Campbell have been in light training this week as they edge towards full fitness, with Turner hoping to figure in the squad that travels to Everton. Turner has not played since colliding with the post in the win at home to Stoke in November, while Campbell has been sidelined with cruciate knee ligament damage sustained at the end of August. And Cattermole, speaking to the club's official website, said: Michael and Fraizer are back in training now and hopefully they can help us have a good end to the season. The time out has been tough on them and they're like two new signings. Fraizer was unbelievable in pre-season. He was our star player. Having him back will give us something totally different up front and he's looking good. Michael defends the area well and gets up and heads the ball well. He's a leader and totally reliable. We need players like him and he will be looking forward to coming back.
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