It doesn’t matter how well things have been going, losing a mainstay of your side and your captain for a long period of time is an incredibly bitter blow.
The club confirmed this morning with a short statement on SAFC.com that Corry Evans will sit out the rest of the season following the injury he sustained in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light.
In what seemed a fairly innocuous passage of play, Evans stayed down for a period of time before attempting to carry on. He was eventually substituted off for Edouard Michut, who played well and did a good job of filling in for the Northern Irishman.
The SAFC.com statement reads:
Sunderland AFC can confirm that Corry Evans has suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament.
The midfielder will undergo surgery, and is expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the season after picking up the injury during Sunday’s win over Middlesbrough.
We’re right behind you, Skipper.
Evans arrived last season on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers following his release at the end of his contract, and I distinctly recall the interview I conducted with a Blackburn fan at the time as being fairly dismissive - that he’s a decent player but never stays fit.
What we’ve seen since Evans arrived, however, has been quite the opposite - he plays most games and, particularly this season, he’s been a crucial part of our team and is central to lots of the good play that we’ve seen from this young side.
He’s a leader, he’s hardworking, and he shields the defence better than most midfielders we’ve seen on Wearside in years.
The fact he’s largely stayed injury free since arriving makes it even tougher to take, because ACL injuries are almost always down to incredibly bad luck.
Evans, at his age, will need time to heal up before he comes back into the fold because the mental and physical toll of such an injury can be taxing.
So where do we go from here?
The signing of Pierre Ekwah seems well-timed, as was the good performances of Dan Neil and Edouard Michut in the Middlesbrough game, but it does mean we are short of experience in an area of the pitch where it’s needed. Jay Matete’s departure to Plymouth now seems a tad unfortunate, as I have no doubts that he could have been the man to fill the Evans-shaped hole in Sunderland’s midfield.
Elliot Embleton’s still long-term injured, and Alex Pritchard’s struggled for fitness of late.
We have options, but does this issue now force us to look even further into the pool of available players this January, knowing that a player like Evans who has experience and leadership skills in abundance can be crucial when you’re potentially heading into a race for the playoffs spots?
I have no doubt that thought will have crossed the minds of Tony Mowbray, Stuart Harvey and Kristjaan Speakman, who whilst knowing we still have several spots to fill can’t have planned for losing our captain for at least the rest of the current campaign.
Whilst I have full faith in Dan Neil’s ability to step things up, I’d be interested to know what other options are out there. We are well stocked in terms of numbers but not in terms of experience, and how important that particular attribute is to the club right now will be determined by what course of action they choose to take before the window slams shut.