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Brown facing lengthy spell on the sidelines
SUNDERLAND defender Wes Brown faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines if fears he has suffered a knee ligament injury are confirmed later this week.
Brown was a member of the Sunderland squad that flew back into the North-East from South Korea yesterday afternoon following the end of their involvement in the Peace Cup.
The 32-year-old was unable to complete Sunday's 3-2 win over FC Groningen as he sustained a knee injury in the first half.
Detailed scans will not be possible until the swelling on the injury has settled down, but an initial examination suggests ligament damage is a strong possibility.
Depending on the extent of the damage, Brown could be unavailable for a number of months, but he will miss the start of the new season regardless if ligament problems are confirmed.
"Wes is the worry," said Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill. "It could be a bad one, but we really don't know at this stage.
"You are told one thing at half-time and another thing at full-time, so really, it's still too early to tell.
"We will probably only find out once it settles down, but hopefully it won't be too bad because he's an important player for us."
Carlos Cuellar also suffered an injury in Sunday's final Peace Cup game, but the summer signing's withdrawal was precautionary and he is not expected to be out for long.
The same is true of Phil Bardsley and Matt Kilgallon, neither of whom travelled to South Korea after they suffered minor knocks in training at the start of last week.
Kilgallon's future has been the subject of mounting speculation in recent weeks, with Championship side Blackburn Rovers understood to be interested in securing his services.
However, O'Neill insists there has been no contact with the Ewood Park club.
"I genuinely have not heard anything about Matt Kilgallon going to Blackburn," he said. "At the moment we are looking to bring players in, and that's what we are working on."
Sunderland were linked with defensive moves of their own at the weekend, most notably regarding Aston Villa duo James Collins and Stephen Warnock.
Warnock remains a leading target, but O'Neill's priority is to strengthen an attack that has been shorn of a number of experienced players since the end of last season.
Wolves' Steven Fletcher is a long-standing target, although the Molineux club are steadfastly refusing to lower their eight-figure valuation of the Scotsman.
"Undoubtedly what is focusing my mind more than anything else is the need to strengthen our attacking options," said O'Neill.
"We have lost Nicklas Bendtner after his loan, we have lost Asamoah Gyan from our squad list and we need to bring in strikers.
"What I am looking to do is bring in attacking players who have quality and who have more experience than we have now, because, when you look at our squad in terms of attackers, we are short on experience and it's something we need to try to address."