ROSS Stewart is closing in on a return to action for Sunderland, with Tony Mowbray revealing the striker could play in an in-house friendly game during the coming international break.

Stewart has been out of action since suffering a serious Achilles injury in the FA Cup tie against Fulham in January, and while the striker's long-term future remains uncertain as he approaches the end of his contract, Mowbray can't wait to get him back on the pitch.

It's too early, says the head coach, to target a definitive date or game for a return to competitive action, but Mowbray is pleased with the progress of the 27-year-old, who is "out on the grass kicking balls about every day".

And the head coach says it's a possibility that Stewart will feature in a training ground game during the September international break, which falls after next week's home game against Southampton.

"You just have to watch this space," said Mowbray.

"Maybe the end of the international break or during the international break, there might be the potential that he plays an internal in-house game or something like that. That's how close he is I think, in my mind, but let's wait and see.

"I just think it's a nice feeling to think we sign a striker or two this week and then Ross Stewart gets fit as well and all of a sudden we've got three new strikers, then the young French kid (Eliezer Mayenda) gets fit and it's four new strikers, then there's Hemir, five strikers and I'll be moaning we've got too many.

"Let's wait and see. Ross fit would be a huge boost because of the impact he makes in the dressing room in the group. He's a very well thought of footballer at this club."


Stewart's current contract at the Stadium of Light expires at the end of this season and while discussions between the club and striker's representatives have taken place, no agreement has been reached. That uncertainty has led to inevitable speculation linking him with an exit, but Mowbray said earlier this month that Sunderland chiefs aren't uncomfortable about the situation.

He said: “I genuinely don’t think the club are over-stressing on it. What did he cost? It certainly wasn’t millions and millions.

“I don’t think the club are over-stressing. They’re making him offers that they think are special in the context of where our football club is at the moment. We’re not just trying to give him a good contract – we’re trying to make it an incredibly good contract for him in terms of where he is, and our club is, at the moment."