Bardsley in line for Sunderland comeback
Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley is set to make his comeback from injury in a friendly against Middlesbrough behind closed doors on Thursday.
Bardsley, 27, suffered an ankle injury during pre-season which has kept him out of Sunderland's campaign, but he looks set to return three weeks ahead of schedule.
If the former Manchester United full-back is able to complete the game against Boro without any problems, he is likely to be named as one of three permitted over-age players for the Under-21 game against Stoke City on Monday.
In the absence of Bardsley, midfielder Craig Gardner has filled in at right back for Martin O'Neill's men, winning praise for his performances.
He is set to play the role again when Sunderland visit Manchester City on Saturday, and is thought likely to keep his place for the Tyne-Wear derby in just under three weeks.
Meanwhile, on-loan Tottenham Hotspur defender Danny Rose believes there is lot more to come from Sunderland after the club recorded their first win at the weekend.
Speaking to the Sunderland Echo, he said: "I have heard this from a lot a people that a sign of a good team is when you don't play well and still pick up points.
"We have managed to dig out some decent results and we are unbeaten, which is great. Obviously we would like more points on the board, but we can't complain too much about where we are at the minute."
Steven Fletcher has been providing the majority of the club's goals this season, but Rose said they cannot keep relying on him and called for more players to chip in.
"The boys know that we can't always rely on our number nine, as it were, to score us goals through the whole of the season," he said.
"We are pleased that we've been able to provide the service for Fletch to get the goals, and even more grateful that he's been able to put away his chances."