STEVE Bruce insists Sunderland had little option than to approve a knee operation for Craig Gordon, which will rule the Scotland keeper out for up to six months.
Gordon flew to Sweden earlier this week to see knee specialist Professor Hakan Alfredson after completing a month of exercises to cure a tendon problem.
Bruce hoped the rehabilitation programme would cure the 28-year-old’s injury and was not keen on allowing the stopper to undergo surgery with Sunderland’s Premier League position still precarious.
But the damage to Gordon’s knee was worse than first thought, with the £9million keeper sustaining a partial tear to his tendon.
Gordon has already undergone an operation and now faces four to six months on the sidelines – making him a major doubt for the start of next season.
Bruce told the Echo: “Craig went to see the specialist, who decided he had to operate on him.
“When he went in there, he discovered his knee was probably worse than we feared. So we decided just to have the operation.
“He was struggling anyway. He had gone on the bench manfully, but I think if I’d have had to ask to call on him, I don’t think that would have been possible.
“So that’s the situation we find ourselves in, he’s been operated on and he’ll be out for between four and six months.”
Gordon has been on the bench for Sunderland’s last six games with Simon Mignolet taking his place in the starting XI.
Northern Ireland stopper Trevor Carson, who had returned to the club after his loan spell at Brentford was interrupted by injury, will now act as cover for Mignolet.
Bruce has full confidence in Mignolet despite the 22-year-old’s clanger for Birmingham’s opener in last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at St Andrew’s.
“Simon’s done fantastically well in his first season,” added Bruce.
“He made a mistake – outfield players have been making mistakes for weeks.
“When you’re a goalkeeper, it gets highlighted.
“But I’ve watched him in training all week, I’ve worked with him now for eight months and he’ll be OK.
“He’s just going to have to recover from it. He’s had a fantastic first season considering where he’s come from.
“It shows you how football is. The month before, he gets his first Belgian cap, keeps a clean sheet and does fantastically well. Then on Saturday he makes a mistake. So he’ll have to recover but I think he’s strong enough to deal with it.”
Meanwhile, Sulley Muntari, Kieran Richardson, Anton Ferdinand and Danny Welbeck are all rated as 50/50 for Saturday’s visit of Bruce’s former club, Wigan.
Ferdinand (hamstring), Muntari and Richardson (calf) all missed the Birmingham game through injury, while Welbeck was replaced in the second half with a hamstring strain.