The Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has been handed a welcome boost ahead of Saturday's Premier League match against Bolton.
The Black Cats entertain Wanderers at the Stadium of Light having slipped into the bottom half of the table as a result of Stoke City's 3-2 win over Fulham on Tuesday night and a run of 11 league games which has brought just seven points.
Bruce's men have won just once during that sequence of fixtures – against high-flying Arsenal – and have been hampered in recent weeks by injuries and suspensions.
Central defender Michael Turner will complete his four-match ban at the weekend – Bruce was himself charged with improper conduct by the Football Association on Tuesday over his comments regarding the player's dismissal at Manchester City on 19 December – while the likes of Craig Gordon, John Mensah, Lee Cattermole, Andy Reid and Nyron Nosworthy are still out injured.
However, Kenwyne Jones, Kieran Richardson and Bolo Zenden could all return against Bolton, while Anton Ferdinand has an outside chance of being available.
Bruce said: "We could possibly have people back, there are a few close. Kenwyne, Kieran and Bolo are all training and Craig Gordon's stepping up his recovery. It's too soon for Craig, but we could have four or five in and around the squad at the weekend."
Jones has missed the last two games with a calf problem, while Richardson has been sidelined for the last three by a similar injury. Zenden has struggled with hamstring strains since his arrival on Wearside, and was left out of Saturday's 3-0 FA Cup third-round win over non-league Barrow as a precaution.
Gordon broke his arm in a collision with the Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe during a 2-0 defeat at White Hart Lane at the beginning of November. However, he has been given the go-ahead to step up his recovery and is hoping for a run-out with the reserves next week, weather permitting.
Ferdinand had been out for more than a month after damaging ankle ligaments in the 1-0 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage on 6 December.
Midfielder Cattermole has been forced to sit out the last three games since returning from a knee injury with a hamstring problem and, while he is close again, he will not be risked unless he is ready.
Bruce said: "I would say he's 50-50 for the game, but he could be in contention for the Chelsea match [on 16 January]."
Meanwhile, the ongoing cold snap has forced Bruce and his players indoors with the training pitches at the Academy of Light frozen.
The manager said: "It's a frustration because, as a professional, you prepare properly for every game. We have struggled for two and a half weeks now. We went on the beach 10 days ago and after that, a lot of players were complaining of stiffness, soreness and calf strains, so we knocked that on the head. It's particularly frustrating and it's certainly not easy. I can't remember experiencing such a long period of snow and ice."Reuse content