Steven Fletcher's Achilles injury is worse than first feared and may force the striker into another lengthy lay-off.
The 26-year-old has visibly struggled this season, though the true reason is perhaps now coming to light. He is believed to have seen a specialist on the injury this week and Gus Poyet insists the time is right to make a 'strong decision' on the matter.
He told the Sunderland Echo:
It's affecting him more than I thought. I'm a bit worried about it.
We're analysing it with the medical staff. But we're going to have to make a decision one way or the other.
We'll have to look at the games ahead and the chance of rest in between, but we'll need to make a strong decision.
It has been apparent all season that something has been wrong with Fletcher. The nature of the problem was more down to interpretation until now, with a lack of pre-season or struggles in adapting to Poyet's new system prominent theories.
Some fans have also questioned his work ethic and, whilst I can understand the inclination, it has always seemed a little unfair to me. That's too serious an accusation to throw around without something concrete to base it upon. For me, it's not something which is fair to speculate about.
It seems quite a similar situation to what happened to Niall Quinn in his early Sunderland career. After a decent start, he suffered an injury and returned the following season. He really struggled though, and the crowd turned on him, booing him off the pitch after a 1-0 defeat to Norwich amid accusations of 'not trying'.
After surgery, he was back in the side and looking like the player that, today, we all remember him as, but it just goes to highlight the pitfalls of jumping to conclusions.
Hopefully, it will be a similar story with Fletcher. If he isn't right, get him fixed and back for next season. Between Jozy Altidore, Nacho Scocco, Fabio Borini and Connor Wickham, there should be enough up front to get by. Plus, in his current condition I am not all that sure how much use Fletcher is to anyone right now anyway.