JOHN O’SHEA is a major doubt to face Chelsea on Wednesday night after limping through the closing stages of Saturday’s stalemate at Aston Villa.
Skipper O’Shea suffered a groin strain in the final 10 minutes at Villa Park after Sunderland had already used all of their three substitutes.
Head coach Gus Poyet feared that the Black Cats would be forced to complete the game with 10 men and made hasty plans to reorganise his defence.
But, after treatment, O’Shea saw the game through until the final whistle, although he was in obvious discomfort.
Poyet was coy on the severity of O’Shea’s injury, although the 32-year-old is a serious concern for Wednesday’s visit of Chelsea to the Stadium of Light.
“It was a worry at the end,” said Poyet.
“One second they said to me he was out and we were trying to switch things around.
“The next second, he managed to stay on the pitch limping, which was great for us.
“Credit to him and let’s hope it’s nothing serious.”
Valentin Roberge will almost certainly take O’Shea’s place in the starting XI if the Republic of Ireland international fails to recover.
Roberge was solid at Stoke City nine days ago after being introduced following Wes Brown’s sending-off.
And with Carlos Cuellar ruled out for several weeks with a hip problem and Modibo Diakite being plagued by a niggling injury, Roberge is in prime position to partner Brown at the heart of Sunderland’s defence.
H Figures released have shown Sunderland spent £4.6million on agent fees in the 12-month period from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013.
That tally was the seventh highest in the Premier League and more than double the £2.1m Sunderland paid out in the previous 12 months.
But it was a hectic period of transfer activity for the Black Cats, with Danny Graham, Alfred N’Diaye and Kader Mangane arriving in the January transfer window, while Fraizer Campbell and David Meyler both left the club at the same time.
The summer was even busier with 14 players arriving at the Stadium of Light, while Simon Mignolet, Ahmed Elmohamady, James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon all departed, with Graham and N’Diaye leaving on loan.