Sunderland players Lee Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner held over damaged cars
Friday 16 December 2011
Martin O'Neill was today facing a decision over Lee Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner after it emerged that the pair had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage.
Barely a fortnight into his reign, the 59-year-old found himself having to deal with an unwelcome off-field situation with both men due to return to the squad for Sunday's Barclays Premier League trip to Tottenham.
Northumbria Police confirmed that skipper Cattermole and on-loan striker Bendtner, both 23, were bailed after being arrested yesterday in connection with in incident in Newcastle in which cars were damaged on December 6.
The news came less than a week after central defender Titus Bramble returned to action after a six-week club suspension following his arrest after a night out on Teesside.
O'Neill had already completed his pre-match press conference when yesterday's events were confirmed late this morning, and had indicated that both men could be involved at White Hart Lane.
Cattermole missed O'Neill's first game in charge, last Saturday's 2-1 home victory over Blackburn, as he served a one-match ban after reaching five bookings for the season, while Bendtner, who played in a training ground match yesterday, sat out with a groin problem.
O'Neill said: "We have three players who weren't available last week for one reason or another - Bendtner, Cattermole and [Craig] Gardner - and if Craig Gardner and Bendtner have recovered from yesterday's exertions in the game, then we could have them available for selection, so that's encouraging."
O'Neill could have done without any distractions as he attempts to drag Sunderland away from the developing battle against relegation.
They remain just two points clear of the drop zone despite last weekend's victory, and while the win over Blackburn launched the new manager's reign in promising style, he knows there is much work still to be done.
He said: "It's been hectic, but obviously Sunday's result made it worthwhile. Even with that, we haven't got level points per games played yet, so we have to really battle through this Christmas period."
Bendtner's availability would provide a boost for O'Neill, who started with Connor Wickham in attack at the weekend despite the teenager having managed just two days of light training following his return from a knee ligament injury.
The Ulsterman is yet to speak to Asamoah Gyan, whose departure on loan for the season to United Arab Emirates club Al-Ain in August further depleted the Black Cats' striking resources, although he intends to remedy that situation early next week.
He said: "I have got Asamoah's number and I intend to call him. I really should have called him there a couple of days ago, but didn't do, and I will certainly call him before Christmas as much to introduce myself.
"In terms of the way the contract and the deal has been structured, it may well be that there is no chance of us getting him back at that time and the ball may well be in the other club's court.
"From that viewpoint, they might not want to."
If Gyan does not return, as seems likely, O'Neill faces a decision over whether to go with what he already has - Fraizer Campbell is close to resuming full training after also playing behind closed doors yesterday - or dipping into the winter transfer market.
However, he insists the thought of going to chairman Ellis Short with a wishlist is yet to cross his mind.
He said: "I genuinely have not considered this. You might think now after a week or 10 days here that I should be considering everything, but the games are coming so quickly that genuinely, I haven't had time to think about it.
"I have come here to try to see the club do well because we would all do well from that, but that wasn't the main priority, worrying about January, at the time.
"If nothing happens, I won't be emphasising the issue. We are going to try to see it through if we can and if something develops, something might develop."
Arsenal strengthened their grip on a top-four finish with a straightforward 3-0 win over Hull City.
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