Sunderland Vs Wigan Athletic, Sat 23 Apr 2011

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Midfielder Jack Colback has told manager Steve Bruce to count him in for Sunderland's fight to stay in the Barclays Premier League.

The 21-year-old academy graduate was handed his first league start for the club at Birmingham last Saturday as injuries and a dismal run of results forced Bruce into yet another reshuffle.

Colback did not let his manager down with an assured display, although he could not prevent the Black Cats slipping to a 2-0 defeat, the club's eighth in nine games.

Bruce hopes to have senior men Kieran Richardson and Sulley Muntari back for the vital clash with Wigan, who gave their own hopes of avoiding the drop a significant boost with a 3-1 win at Blackpool last weekend.

However, whether they make it or not, Colback is ready to roll up his sleeves once again in the hunt for precious points.

Sunderland face the Latics and then Fulham at the Stadium of Light in their next two games, and while their own fans have grown increasingly restless in recent weeks, the midfielder knows that would change instantly with two positive results.

Colback, who was born and raised on Tyneside, but has spent his formative years in football on Wearside, said: "You feel the passion of the crowd every time you play, and it's great to be playing for your hometown club, so to speak.

"I have been here since I was 10, so it's as good as, so it's just great to play for them.

"It's just unfortunate the way it has been going at the minute.

"We need to try to turn it around, and with two home games coming up...

"The way the league has gone this year, it looks all doom and gloom now, but two wins and we could be back in the top 10 and everyone forgets about the past eight or nine games."


Bruce will make late checks on a trio of players.

Striker Danny Welbeck remains a doubt after picking up a hamstring strain at Birmingham last weekend, while Kieran Richardson and Sulley Muntari (both calf) are battling against the clock to be fit.

Anton Ferdinand (hamstring) is unlikely to make it with fellow defenders Titus Bramble (knee) and John Mensah (adductor tear) already ruled out.

Striker Fraizer Campbell and keeper Craig Gordon both underwent knee surgery earlier this week and will be missing until well into next season, and Trevor Carson has been recalled from his loan spell at Brentford to provide the back-up to Simon Mignolet, who will continue in goal despite a poor afternoon at St Andrews.

Meanwhile, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez believes his side have hit form at the right time but is having to play down expectations this weekend.

Latics, widely written off as relegation certainties just a few weeks ago, have given themselves a great chance of avoiding the drop by collecting seven points from their last four games.

Last week's win at Blackpool lifted them out of the bottom three for the first time in three months and they now, unusually, find themselves as favourites for the trip to Sunderland.

The Black Cats were 15 points ahead of Wigan in January but that difference will be cut to just one if Martinez can engineer another win at the Stadium of Light.

The Spaniard said: "The return of points has been very pleasing and now we are just excited about the last five games.

"We are always confident in our own ability and I feel we are going to be confident in the next five games.

"But I don't think you can pick a right or wrong moment to play a side.

"We don't get carried away in terms of looking at form because we know on their day Sunderland can beat anyone.

"They haven't been getting a lot of good results but if you look at the squad they have got, it is a squad that showed in the first half of the season they could be fighting for Europe.

"The quality is there - you always get, for different reasons, into a bad moment of form but it is quite clear that on their day Sunderland are a very strong side.

"They have got huge experience and real talent, they have players who had a massive impact at the World Cup.

"That is the level they've got and we are going to have to be at our best at the Stadium of Light."

Defender Titus Bramble, who left the DW Stadium last summer, will not be featuring having been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Wigan, aside from the suspended Maynor Figueroa, will be at full strength with no injuries to report.

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