Keiren Westwood may have to undergo surgery to cure the shoulder injury that has kept him out of Sunderland’s Premier League campaign for almost two months.
The Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper suffered the injury in the Black Cats’ 1-0 defeat at Hull on November 2, with Vito Mannone replacing him before half-time at the KC Stadium. He was an unused substitute in Sunderland’s next league game against his former club Manchester City, and then played the entire 90 minutes of Ireland’s 3-0 friendly win against Latvia on November 15.
But he aggravated the problem in training, and has been sidelined since then with Mannone making the most of his opportunity while youngster Jordan Pickford stepped up to provide cover on the bench. Westwood is due to see a specialist, and Sunderland’s medical staff will then decide whether the 29-year-old needs an operation.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet said: “Keiren is seeing a specialist and is still feeling it (the injury) a little bit.
“We need to make that decision now on what is the next step with him. It’s a medical decision which we need to make. It’s difficult what will be better for him – an operation or not.
“The medical staff need to be convinced. An operation is one of the options.”
Westwood and centre-back Carlos Cuellar (hip) will both miss Sunderland’s game against Norwich City at the Stadium of Light tomorrow, but Poyet will be able to call upon midfielder Jack Colback and striker Steven Fletcher now that they have recovered from the virus that kept them out of the midweek Capital One Cup quarter-final win over Chelsea.
This weekend’s game will be Sunderland’s fifth fixture in 18 days this month, with two more matches still to be played next week.
And Sunderland’s cup run means they also face a minimum of seven games in January – eight if they beat Carlisle United in the FA Cup third round, and possibly nine if that tie against the Cumbrians required a replay.
That has prompted Poyet to make a fresh call for a winter break, saying it would benefit not only the clubs but also the national side – particularly with the World Cup in Brazil looming next summer.
“For us, from now to the end of January is going to be a nightmare,” he said. “On coaching courses you are supposed to play, then analyse the game but we have no time.
“We are not going to be able to do that because there is no time – it’s bang, bang, bang
“It is the way English football is set, so you can not go against the rules we just need to adapt.
“Do I like it? No I don’t.
“Do I think English football needs a winter break? Yes I do, and it is important we realise at the end of the season there is a World Cup and you need English players to be in the best physical condition, but especially mentally fit because football now is mental.
“We have to stop this craziness. It is so many games and time preparing for games, listening, concentrating, getting tired, getting over disappointments, enjoying the happiness of winning.
“When the season finishes you want to go on holiday because you are exhausted, but instead we will have players going to the World Cup.
“For me, two weeks or three weeks break would be fantastic for everybody.
“I’m traditional. I agree with Boxing Day fixtures.
“I think we should play on Boxing Day, but from the 27th we should be off and come back in the middle of January.
“I’ve been in England for 17 years and we’ve been talking about this for 17 years.”