Mensah tipped to pass tough test
The injury-plagued 27-year-old Ghana international is determined to play through the pain barrier in the absence of central defensive duo Titus Bramble and Michael Turner, who have been ruled out until well into the new year. Mensah, who missed much of his first season on loan at the Stadium of Light with a series of injuries linked to a persistent back problem, has missed the last three games with a dislocated shoulder. However, he has returned to training three weeks ahead of schedule, and while clearly still in pain, has told Bruce he is ready to help plug the gap left by two of the club's most consistent performers to date. The manager admits he would be taking a big risk if he named Mensah in the starting line-up for Saturday's Premier League trip to Wolves, but with his options limited, that is the one he currently appears to favour. Bruce said: "It would be a big gamble. It's a gamble, but with his ability, if he can do it, I am prepared to make that gamble - if he can do it. "He trained to day with it - in pain, I have to say - but he wants to try to give it a go, so a lot will depend on him. "It's typical of him - he comes in and wants to train, which is probably three weeks quicker than he should be. "But he wants to give it a go, so let's hope the specialists are right. They don't think by him training on it he can do any more damage, that's the most important thing. "But it is sore, as you can imagine. John trained this morning and came through it and if he comes through tomorrow, then it will be his call." Other than Mensah, Paraguay international Paulo Da Silva is the only fit specialist central defender available to partner Anton Ferdinand, and while right-back Nedum Onuoha can play there, Bruce is reluctant to spark the reshuffle his selection would require. The scramble to find replacements was prompted on a black day for the Wearsiders as news of Turner's misfortune followed confirmation that Bramble's knee cartilage injury required surgery. Bramble had his operation this afternoon - he is expected to be out for at least six weeks - but not before the club revealed that Turner had suffered knee ligament damage during Monday night's 2-2 draw with Everton. The 27-year-old needed treatment after colliding with a post in the act of clearing Tim Cahill's lob off the line, but he was able to continue and finished the game. However, further investigations revealed the injury, and he now faces up to three months on the sidelines. Bruce said: "If ever the emotions of football have been mirrored in two or three weeks, certainly we are experiencing it at the minute. "To lose Bramble, who is being operated on as we speak now, was bad enough, but Turner the other night in getting one off the line crashed into the post and he has damaged his knee ligaments. "That's going to out him in a knee brace for four to six weeks and then there is four to six weeks recovery after that, so he is going to miss the best part of three months. "With Bramble as well, it has been an awful, awful few days for us because the one area where we wanted to improve and needed to improve was defensively. "This year, for anybody who has watched us, those two have been fantastic, and to lose the two of them at this particular moment is difficult to take."