Defensive concerns for Sunderland

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill could face a potential defensive headache as centre back Wes Brown suffered suspected knee ligament damage in the Black Casts 3-2 friendly victory against FC Groningen on Sunday.

The former Manchester United man, signed for a fee of an estimated £1 million last summer could face a lengthy lay off and has flown back to Wearside for immediate treatment. The medical staff at the Stadium of Light will be hoping this latest knock is not a recurrence of the knee problem sustained against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup in January which ruled Brown out for the second half of last season.

Brown’s injury adds him to a growing list of unavailable players for Sunderland, with defenders Phil Bardsley and Matthew Kilgallon left at home for their side’s pre season tour after picking up knocks in training.

Spanish defender Carlos Cuellar, a new arrival from O’Neill’s former club Aston Villa, also had to be brought off during the win, but his manager has stated that this was a precautionary measure rather than another confirmed injury setback.

Nevertheless, the Sunderland management will be hoping for no more injury problems in their remaining three warm up games with Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and midfielder David Vaughan both picking up injuries of their own during the club’s tour of South Korea.

The potential long term loss of Brown could however be the most serious of O’Neills worries, and should the former England international’s knee problem be as bad as first feared O’Neill will no doubt be disappointed to lose someone he considers “ an important player” before the season has even begun.

Sunderland could be on the brink of bringing in new recruits to reinforce their injury plagued defence, with the press recently linking Villa pair Stephen Warnock and James Collins with a move to the North East.