Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Poom Back in Action after 10-Month Lay-Off

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Poom Back in Action after 10-Month Lay-Off

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

Sunderland have been handed a timely boost with the news that Mart Poom has made his long-awaited return to action.

The Estonian goalkeeper played in a behind-doors friendly against Hartlepool United at the Stadium of Light yesterday, his first appearance since the Championship game at Watford's Vicarage Road on October 19, 2004.

The former Derby County player has since been dogged by a series of knee complaints which have twice required surgery.

Poom had been hoping to play for his country in June but was forced to withdraw late on after a minor reaction in his troublesome knee.

Although the problem was diagnosed as a minor one, it kept him out of the Black Cats' entire pre-season programme, inevitably raising question marks about his long-term future at the Stadium of Light.

Even in the past week the signs have been ominous. Last Tuesday the club announced the arrival of West Bromwich Albion's Joe Murphy on a season-long loan and on Friday Sunderland revealed their squad numbers for the coming campaign.

Notably, new boy Kelvin Davis was handed the number one shirt, with Poom relegated to 24.

With Ben Alnwick's number changed from 30 to 13 after the teenager impressed at the end of season, it all suggested a difficult season lay in wait for a player who at the time Sunderland signed him was one of the Premier League's most highly-rated goalkeepers.

After all the false dawns Poom has endured in the past ten months, the Black Cats will be cautious about reading too much into the comeback. But if Poom can prove himself to be the player he was 12 months ago he will provide strong competition for Davis, who has made a good impression since joining the club from Ipswich Town in June.

Alan Stubbs was another to play in the game, which Sunderland won 2-1.

The centre-back has been training on his own since being released by Everton at the end of last season. …

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