Steven Fletcher is unable to play regularly for Sunderland and cannot even train properly as he struggles to recover from his ankle injury.
The club’s first-team coach Charlie Oatway revealed last season’s top scorer is still some way from full fitness.
And that it could be months before manager Gus Poyet can look to the £12m record signing to start every game.
The Scot badly damaged ligaments in his ankle playing for his country against Wales in March and has not found it easy to get back to where he was.
Fletcher may start against Everton today, but if he does it’s highly unlikely that he would be able to do so against Cardiff City on Saturday.
This is bad news for Sunderland who have managed just 12 goals in 16 Premier League games, just two of them coming away from the Stadium of Light.
Oatway said: “You can’t flog a horse. We can’t keep asking Steven on a daily basis when he’s had injuries.
“We can’t keep asking him to go out on Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday.
“You have to try and play with the squad we’ve got. Fletcher is a great player and I’m sure he will score more goals for us.
“He’s another one that’s had an illness recently and that hasn’t helped but he’ll be fine.”
Manager Gus Poyet needs to buy a goalscorer in January to have any chance of dragging the club out of trouble.
Fletcher is clearly notgoing to be 100% for some time, while Jozy Altidore has managed just one goal in the league all season.
The fans even cheered when the American was replaced by Fletcher during last weekend’s home draw against Norwich City.
Oatway was asked whether Altidore was lacking in confidence. He said: “You know him better than me. I don’t see that on a daily basis.
“He’s a very confident young man. When you come off the pitch and haven’t scored, as a centre-forward, then I’m sure you are down and upset. That’s natural.
“And nobody is happy when they get taken off. If they did then they shouldn’t be at the football club.”
How Sunderland cure this lack of goals problem is a puzzle.
Nobody currently on the books look like standing up to the plate and natural goalscorers cost a lot of money.
And would a genuinely top-class striker join a club bottom of the league?
Sunderland may have to bring in someone on loan or even look to Connor Wickham, who has been scoring freely on loan with Sheffield Wednesday.
Oatway said: “You could point fingers at anything.
“You could say we’re trying to be too patient with the ball and we’re not getting it up front quick enough.
“You could say they aren’t taking their chances, they aren’t clinical enough. You can point fingers anywhere, but at the end of the day it’s about everyone scoring goals. It’s not just about the forwards.
“We have enough set-plays that other people can contribute through, but I’m not one to point a finger at anyone in particular. We need to be taking our chances that we create and even if it’s just one, we have to be taking it and scoring.”
Asked if the club were going to sign a striker in the transfer window, Oatway said: “We all want one, don’t we? All we are worried about right now is Everton, not who we are going to bring in, who we want out.
“Wheels are in motion, I am sure conversations have taken place between the gaffer and the club.
“At the end of the day we can only think about what happens now and since we’ve been here. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s not only about scoring goals.
“It’s a big point, but we also needed to make sure we stopped conceding goals and losing games and we’re trying to build on that. It’s our job to improve that and we’ll be trying to do that against Everton.”