Whitehead nears comeback for Black Cats
Sunderland skipper Dean Whitehead could return to action at Falkirk on Thursday night.
The 25-year-old midfielder has been sidelined since damaging knee ligaments in training in August.
It was initially thought he could be missing for six months, effectively writing off the whole of his season.
However, just as the former Oxford player had resigned himself to surgery to repair the damage, he was told his knee was already on the mend, and his recovery has continued apace ever since.
He is now in line for a run-out in former Falkirk full-back Andy Lawrie's testimonial game.
Manager Roy Keane told the club's official website: 'The Falkirk game could be ideal for Dean in terms of him getting his match boots back on. He could be involved.
'He has trained well for the last few weeks and all being well, he is ready to step it up with a proper game.'
Whitehead could be joined by former Celtic defender Stanislav Varga following knee surgery while Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Carlos Edwards could be included as they search for full match fitness after injury.