Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

McCarthy Eyes Up Bassila Boost

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

McCarthy Eyes Up Bassila Boost

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

As he attempts to restore the shattered confidence of his fragile Sunderland side, Mick McCarthy is hoping Christian Bassila will give him some cause for optimism as he prepares his players for this weekend's daunting trip to Arsenal.

The Frenchman has not played since limping off with a hamstring problem during last month's 1-1 draw with West Ham and, with the Black Cats having conceded 11 goals in three-and-a-half games since, there is no doubt the midfielder's combative qualities have been missed.

The frustrated 28-year-old began a programme of running at the Academy of Light last week and is hoping to press his claims for a first-team recall ahead of Saturday's difficult fixture in North London having returned to training.

And while Bassila's participation at Highbury is far from assured given that he has missed a full month of football, McCarthy is keeping his fingers crossed as he prepares to monitor the former Strasbourg schemer's progress on the Wearside training pitches.

"The one (league) victory we have had (this season) ( with a great performance away from home at Middlesbrough ( came with the strongest team I could pick," said the Black Cats boss, whose efforts have been hampered by the loss of key personnel in recent weeks.

"That is the team I have been striving to get out there and it had Christian Bassila in it. Since then, apart from half-an-hour against West Ham, we have been without him and we have missed him."

That Sunderland's performances and results picked up following Bassila's arrival at the Stadium of Light on transfer deadline day was not a coincidence. But the additional resilience his signing ensured was notable by its absence at the weekend, as the Wearsiders slumped to a 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Portsmouth which McCarthy described as "embarrassing" in its ineptitude.

As they prepare to face an Arsenal team expecting to welcome back Thierry Henry from injury, the Black Cats are in desperate need of Bassila to provide cover for a defence and goalkeeper exposed on countless occasions by an average Pompey side. …

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