A BAD week just got worse for Steve Bruce with the news that Danny Welbeck is set to be out for six more weeks.
Sunderland’s on-loan striker (pictured), who had been in great form, before suffering injury at Villa Park on January 5, had been closing in on a first-team return.
The Manchester United man’s recovery from the hamstring injury had been going well and although this weekend’s Blackpool game would have come too soon for him, Bruce expected to have him back for Sunderland’s busy February.
Welbeck, though, has a niggling knee problem which will require exploratory surgery and that operation in itself will rule him out until the start of March – roughly the time at which Fraizer Campbell is expected to be making his comeback from his cruciate ligament injury.
It’s a massive blow for Sunderland, who have already accepted they won’t be able to find a player to replace Darren Bent’s goalscoring qualities in the current transfer window.
Welbeck was earmarked for promotion to Bent’s position, pairing up with record signing Asamoah Gyan to form the club’s first-choice strikeforce.
Welbeck and Gyan formed Sunderland’s spearhead in the stunning 3-0 rout of Chelsea in November and the Blues simply failed to handle Welbeck.
Welbeck has arguably outshone Bent since that game and Bruce would have been happy for the pairing to see out the rest of the season together.
The manager, though, now faces a real headache – effectively reduced to only one striker going into the weekend.
He can go 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 with either Steed Malbranque or Kieran Richardson playing behind Gyan. But saying the situation is far from ideal is an understatement and has increased the need for reinforcements.