NICKLAS Bendtner is to be fitted with a face mask in order to speed his return to first-team action.
The on-loan Arsenal man has been sidelined since January 21, when he took an accidental boot in the face during Sunderland’s 2-0 win over Swansea at the Stadium of Light.
And although the injury did not look overly serious at the time, it turned out the 24-year-old had not only a badly broken nose, but potential damage around his eye socket too.
The 6ft 5ins Dane has not trained since,but Sunderland hope the same sort of medical help which allowed keeper Simon Mignolet to return weeks earlier than originally expected from an even worse injury, could also help the striker.
Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill told the Echo: “Nicklas travelled to London on Friday to see the same specialist who treated Simon Mignolet.
“He’ll be examined and measured for a face mask which we hope will allow him to play in the near future without causing more damage to the affected bones.
“It has been very successful with Simon at a time when we really need him to play at the turn of the year and he has come through it fine.
“Hopefully Nicklas will be equally helped by having a strong, protective face mask, which ensures that he’ll be safe from any knocks he might take.”
O’Neill is reluctant to put a timescale on the big frontman’s return.
But he does acknowledge it’s a case of the sooner the better for Sunderland, who have two raw forwards in Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won, Fraizer Campbell just returning from a 17-month absence and diminutive Stephane Sessegnon needing physical support up front.
He said: “It’s possible Nicklas could start running again next week and look to be ready to play a couple of weeks from now.
“But it’s important he takes as long as he needs with an injury like that so we just wait and see.”
Sunderland face Stoke today, an FA Cup replay against Middlesbrough on Wednesday and then a match against Arsenal next Saturday – a game that Gunner Bendtner would not have been eligible to play in anyway.
That means all being well, Bendtner is likely to be ready to play in four games’ time – against West Brom at the Hawthorns on Saturday, February 25.