Club Focus – Sunderland – Defensive injuries force a reshuffle ahead of visit to ex-manager’s side

The feel-good factor surrounding the Stadium of Light has taken something of a hit with the news that defenders Titus Bramble and Michael Turner have been ruled out of the festive period and are not set to return to action until early 2011. The latter suffered knee ligament damage when heroically blocking an Everton effort on the line on Monday night, and manager Steve Bruce has declared that the former Hull defender will be out “for months.” Summer signing Bramble, meanwhile, damaged his meniscus cartilage in training and faces a similar timeline before he can return to action.

Bruce even went as far as comparing the Bramble-Turner partnership to that he enjoyed with England international Gary Pallister at Manchester United during the 1990’s. The pair were a formidable central defensive unit, and their well-known double act in the dressing room complimented the fact that the pair rarely missed a game together, particularly during the early years. According to BBC Sport, Bruce said: “We were fortunate, that’s the bit of luck you need. We [Bruce and Pallister] played every week and that’s what we were heading to with Michael and Titus. We have lost a big partnership who have done very well for us. I hope the ones who come in can do the job they’ve been doing. It’s a huge loss – one I hope we can overcome but it will be a big challenge.”

The ex-Birmingham boss continued of Turner’s injury: “It’s horrible news. Michael whacked his knee on the post. He’ll see a specialist. I believe it could be months rather than weeks.” The news means the manager will be forced into a defensive reshuffle for the Black Cats’ trip to face Wolves at Molineux on Saturday, with out-of-favour Anton Ferdinand likely to find himself given an extended run in the first team.

Rio’s younger brother has spoken of his wish to see the Wearsiders reach the elusive frontier that is European competition. Ferdinand told BBC Sport: “We’re not afraid to play against anyone – that showed last week against Chelsea and showed again against Everton, when we took the game to them, at times we played some great football. Hopefully we won’t get a patch like we did last season, and if we don’t then we’re more than capable of finishing in the top seven.”

Sunderland’s counterparts on Saturday, Wolves (lead by ex-Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy) have struggled thus far this season, finding themselves second from bottom of the Premier League. Their advantage over 20th placed West Ham is minimal – only three goals separate the two. Sunderland’s impressive form going into the game is likely to instill confidence that the club can get one over on their former gaffer, but must surely be wary of walking on a potential banana skin as Wolves have claimed a victory over high-flying Manchester City at their home already this season.

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