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O'Neill hopeful over Brown return

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill believes long-term injury absentee Wes Brown may still play a part for the club this season.

• Blog: Sunshine break doesn't halt slide

Brown, 33, missed the second half of last season through injury and then suffered a knee problem during pre-season which has kept him out for the entirety of the current campaign.

The former England international registered 20 appearances in his first season on Wearside following his 2011 move from Manchester United, and after adopting a cautious approach of first-team training mixed with rest periods, O'Neill believes his defender could see action before the end of May.

"Wes trained with us for a couple of days out there in Dubai. It was good and he's continued it here," O'Neill told the Journal. "He missed out on Thursday but had trained on Wednesday - it's one of those gradual things. It would be great if he could eventually completed, let's say, a fortnight's training without having to take a break.

"He's been out a long, long time so I'm not expecting miracles. I'm not expecting him to be participating with us in the next two weeks or anything like that, but if he could be as fit as he possibly can at some stage between now and the end of the season at least it would give him some comfort."

O'Neill also confirmed the club's intention to offer promising centre-back John Egan a new contract.

Egan has endured a difficult campaign both on and off the pitch. He suffered a broken leg while on loan at Bradford City and is currently dealing with the death of his father. Commending the player's heart in the face of adversity, O'Neill described his situation as 'devastating'.

"John is progressing," he said. "He's going well. It'll be pre-season before we see him back again but we'll want to extend his contract anyway, if that's the case just to give him every chance and to show we're behind him, as it were.

"It's been devastating for him. He went down there (to Bradford), he had the choice of two or three clubs, he's going fine in the games, the reports have been decent and then suddenly he gets injured. And look at what happened to them.

"He's had a tough time. His father died not long ago so it's been a pretty tough year for him. If heart and desire are anything to go he will cake-walk it (his career) - we'll just see how he comes back from this now."

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