SUNDERLAND keeper Keiren Westwood could miss the rest of the season, Gus Poyet has revealed.
The Republic of Ireland stopper has been sidelined since mid-November with a shoulder problem, which it was eventually decided would only be fully healed if he was to undergo an operation.
But an illness picked up by the 29-year-old has delayed the surgery .
And that now means there is a real chance he will struggle for first-team involvement for the remainder of the campaign.
Black Cats boss Gus Poyet said: “The operation that had been scheduled has been postponed because of a little illness.
“You cannot have an operation when you are ill and are on anti-biotics, and that has meant he is going to be out for longer. He is probably looking at say three to four months before he is back.
“Now, if you are going to think about when the season is going to finish then he could well be out of it, probably to the end.
“We will have to see.”
Also on the long-term injured list is veteran centre-half Carlos Cuellar.
The Spanish defender is still about a month away from being back to full fitness.
But there has been better news for skipper John O’Shea, Wes Brown – who has now served his three-match suspension – as well as others struggling with sickness.
Poyet told the Gazette: “John O’Shea has trained two days in a row now, and has been doing some rugby-style training, looking to strengthen his shoulder.
“We just have to hope he keeps ticking over, and does not aggravate it.
“Wes Brown has been hating his suspension – hating it.
“He has been running a lot more than he should.
“But when you are out, and are not able to play, you have to do that extra running to keep your fitness up.
“I know he can’t wait to be back.
“As for Fabio Borini, he is fully recovered from the illness he suffered at Cardiff, and Adam Johnson is over his flu.
“We did have a little bit of a problem with Cabral during the week, but he’s fine now.
“Carlos Cuellar is probably a month away with his thigh injury, but he is in the gym all the time, and he’s making good progress.”