Sbragia anxious over int'l contingent

02 April 2009 04:30
Ricky Sbragia is hoping the absence of several key players on international duty does not cost Sunderland the chance of victory at West Ham. Sbragia has been without eight of his first-team squad during the two-week international break, and many of them are not due back on Wearside until Friday morning. The biggest concern is over Kenwyne Jones and Carlos Edwards, who played for Trinidad & Tobago in a World Cup qualifier against the USA in Nashville on Wednesday night. They will link up with the rest of the Sunderland squad in London and Sbragia is keeping his fingers crossed that they can hit the ground running. "It's a big game and I would like to play my best team but we'll have to see how they are," said the Sunderland boss. "These international games do not help. I can understand why they want to play for their country, it's an honour, but we could do with our game at West Ham being on Sunday - maybe it should happen after international games. "It's a balancing act, we have to find out how they are physically, the travelling can really take it out of them. "I'll ask the players who have been travelling how they are mentally and physically, but it's not always easy to get an honest answer. "We meet Kenwyne and Carlos in London and we have provided people down there to look after them. It's not ideal but we just have to get on with it." Sunderland are just three points above the relegation zone with eight games left. "We've got to pick up points and Saturday is a very big game for us," added the Black Cats boss. Northern Ireland defender George McCartney is a doubt for the game against his former club after returning from international duty with an injury. Sbragia explained: "There's a little problem with George, he came off at half-time in the international game and we won't know whether he's fit to play until Friday." Craig Gordon is pushing for a return to Sunderland's first team after impressing for Scotland in their World Cup qualifier against Iceland on Wednesday. Gordon has had to play second fiddle to Marton Fulop since returning from a broken ankle in January. "The goalkeeper position is a dilemma and I'll look at it," Sbragia added. Meanwhile, Sbragia insists Djibril Cisse is in the right frame of mind to play at West Ham. Cisse was arrested on suspicion of common assault following an incident outside a lap-dancing bar in Newcastle in the early hours on Tuesday morning. Sbragia said: "Djibril knows how we feel. "We have a code of discipline that he's aware of and if we have to we'll deal with it, but he trained well yesterday, he looked focused."

Source: Eurosport