The left-back admits that injuries have made his second spell on Wearside a personal nightmare.
But his recurring fitness problems have occurred while the Black Cats are showing signs of shrugging off their tag as perennial underachievers.
Saturday's trip to Wigan offers an opportunity to reinforce Sunderland's credentials as an established Premier League outfit by ending their poor run at the division's lesser sides.
Defeats at Stoke, Burnley and Birmingham undermines McCartney's argument that Sunderland have turned the corner. The encounter at the DW Stadium provides their latest test against unfashionable opposition.
We have played all the top teams and taken points off them, noted McCartney who completed the full 90 minutes of last weekend's victory over Arsenal. Against the lesser teams we've been a bit disappointed that we haven't beaten or at least taken a draw off them. We haven't been out of the top ten this season whereas last season were seen as one of the lesser teams in the division. This year we've beaten the top teams and we're going into the Wigan game thinking it's one of the easier matches, no disrespect to Wigan. It's certainly a game we feel we should win.
The game could re-kindle the simmering war of words between Latics chairman Dave Whelan and Steve Bruce who has responded to accusations from the Wigan supremo that he left behind a few dodgy signings at the club.
Bruce said: I saw the quotes from Dave Whelan and I know that he was in Barbados at the time, so maybe he'd had one or two glasses of white wine when he made the remarks!
I was trying to think of the couple of dodgy signings he was on about and I can only think of Hugo Rodallega and Charles N'Zogbia, who were signed at the back end of my time there, and if Wigan want to offload those two, then we'll be happy to take them.
McCartney defended his manager's record in the transfer market, saying: Whelan is probably a bit bitter about losing him. Since the manager came here he has made some really good signings.