Sunderland defender Gary Breen has targeted the FA Cup fifth round clash with former club Birmingham for his comeback – provided that the weather does not get in the way.
The 29-year-old Republic of Ireland international, who spent a season at St Andrew’s before his move to Coventry, is hoping to be ready for the game next month after finally shaking off the knee problem which has kept him out of action for 11 weeks.
He is due to make his comeback for the reserves against Manchester City at Hyde tonight – although the wintry snap is threatening the game – and that would give him a real chance of staking his claim for cup glory following yesterday’s draw.
“It’s a good tie for us,” he said. “We wanted a home draw and we got it and the fact that it’s Birmingham adds some gloss.
“I was only there for a season before I went to Coventry, but I enjoyed it. Barry Fry made me captain when I was only 21 and I got into the Ireland team.
“Birmingham’s fans are passionate and vocal like Sunderland fans so the game should have a good atmosphere. It’s a tough game but there’s no reason why we can’t win it.
“I hope to play some part tonight, but there is some doubt about the game. I’m back in training and things have gone reasonably well. It’ll be good to get a game under my belt.”
Breen has not played since damaging knee ligaments during the 0-0 draw with Coventry at the Stadium of Light on November 8.
That means he has missed the last 12 games, although in his absence, his side has lost just three times to climb into fourth in the Division One table and make it through two rounds in the FA Cup.
Phil Babb and Joachim Bjorklund have performed admirably in central defence in recent weeks to lessen the blow of the Irishman’s loss, but manager Mick McCarthy knows just how influential a player he has been in his short time on Wearside.
“Gary was great for us earlier in the season and his return will add even more competition,” he told the club’s official website, www.safc.com. “He’s in full training and it’s so far, so good.”