Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has described Wes Brown's year-long battle to return to fitness as "really tough" for the former Manchester United player.
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Brown, 33, joined the Black Cats in 2011 after spending over a decade at Old Trafford, but a series of injuries has restricted him to only 20 appearances in almost three years.
And O'Neill told the Sunderland Echo: "It has been really tough for Wes, a real challenge.
"He'll do a few days training, he does a few days here and there, and then he has a setback - it has been really frustrating for him.
"But all he can do is keep on trying. It's not what he would have expected when he first got injured, and I feel for him. It's a shame for the lad, and it's hard for him to take."
Meanwhile O'Neill also has anxieties about the fitness of on-loan defender Danny Rose, who suffered a hamstring injury in the 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal.
Rose, on loan from Tottenham, looks unlikely to make the trip to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, but skipper Lee Cattermole is expected to make his second start since returning from knee ligament damage against the Gunners.
The inclusion of Cattermole is likely to see John O'Shea relinquishing the captaincy, but the Republic of Ireland international said he was delighted to have a player of that calibre back in the side.
"Catts will go from strength to strength now," he said. "Having him back for the final games of the season will be a big, big boost for us."