Sunderland manager Steve Bruce was yesterday dealt another major blow when goalkeeper Craig Gordon was ruled out for up to six months after undergoing knee surgery.
The 28-year-old Scotland international had an operation in Sweden after the programme of exercises he had initially been prescribed failed to achieve the desired results.
He now faces between four and six months out of action just at the time his club could use his experience as they attempt to drag themselves away from the relegation mire.
"Craig had the operation yesterday and it went well. He will be out for about four to six months now," Bruce said. "Craig's been following a programme, but when the specialist had a look at the knee again, we were left with no choice but to go ahead with the surgery. That just sums our luck up at the moment."
Bruce's dismay is understandable – Gordon's misfortune is the latest to befall Sunderland in a season which has seen the likes of Titus Bramble, Michael Turner, Danny Welbeck, Fraizer Campbell and David Meyler all suffer significant lay-offs with knee injuries.
Sunderland face crucial home games against Wigan and Fulham in the next fortnight in which they are desperate to end a run of nine league fixtures without a win which has seen them slide from sixth place into 15th.