LEE Cattermole has been given an injection to cure the knee injury which has plagued him for the last three months.
But the Sunderland skipper faces several more weeks on the sidelines – and could face surgery if it fails to solve a problem which has limited the 24-year-old to just an hour of first-team football since November.
Cattermole made a surprise return to the fold against Arsenal three weeks ago, but was replaced at the interval and has continued to suffer knee pain on the training field.
The midfielder saw a specialist this week and underwent an injection to clear fluid from the joint, which stems from suffering medial ligament damage in November’s stalemate with QPR.
But the results won’t be known for another couple of weeks and if it fails to have the desired effect, Cattermole will need to look at alternatives after making just 14 appearances this season.
Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill said: “Lee went to see the specialist a couple of days ago, who thinks a little injection in there will help.
“But we won’t know the results of that for a week or two.
“When the injection wears off, he’ll hopefully come back to train relatively normally, but then obviously he’ll need to build it up for a week or two after that.
“So I can’t see us seeing him for a few weeks and if that doesn’t work, we’ll have to look at some alternatives.
“In fairness, we’ve had to learn to play without Lee for most of the season.
“Through one or way another, he’s missed most of it, right back to getting sent off at MK Dons and then having the injuries.”
On-loan Spurs left-back Danny Rose will also miss tomorrow’s visit of Fulham, although the 22-year-old could be available for the trip to basement boys QPR seven days later.
“Danny will start back with us next week so it will probably be another week before he’s right,” said O’Neill.
Meanwhile, O’Neill has told his players to put a run of three successive Premier League defeats – his longest losing streak as Sunderland manager – to the back of their minds tomorrow.
Fulham have endured a similarly inconsistent season to the Black Cats and only moved three points clear of O’Neill’s side last weekend when they triumphed 1-0 over 10th placed Stoke City.
O’Neill added: “We’ve got to put the defeats to the back of our minds and go with the same sort of forcefulness that we showed in the second half against Arsenal and before that, against West Ham.
“There are similarities with Fulham over the way our two seasons have gone.
“Nothing separated us until they beat Stoke City last weekend.
“Martin Jol was speaking of how important that win was because for a weekend or two, it will stop them from looking over their shoulders.”