Lee Cattermole has been sidelined once again with a reoccurring back injury, with Sunderland not rushing him back into action in order to avoid him needing an operation.
Cattermole missed out on the Arsenal defeat last weekend, with it appearing on Friday night that he was having problems with his back again and would not be able to play.
The midfielder will miss today's clash with Watford too, but the club are unaware of how much longer he'll be out for, as they don't want him to come back too soon.
The problem saw him sidelined for three weeks initially last month, but given it's reoccurrence, one could expect him to be out for even longer this time, which is a huge blow for his side as they start to find some form.
Allardyce won't rush Cattermole back
Speaking to the Shields Gazette, manager Sam Allardyce revealed that Cattermole himself "doesn't want to come back...until he's 100 per cent comfortable" either, with neither him nor the club "want[ing] it to escalate into an operation" that could mean "weeks or months out."
The 27-year-old has been a key player for Sunderland so far this season, with, unsurprisingly, his poor form at the beginning of the campaign coinciding with the team's, whilst his turnaround has seen the Black Cats improve too.
Therefore, it comes as little surprise that Allardyce wants him back as soon as possible, as he is one of the first names on the team sheet having formed a splendid partnership with Yann M'Vila in the middle of the park.
"We want to make sure we get it right this time," the manager said, before revealing that Cattermole has already gone "back to the specialist" to sort the problem, which he concedes will "take a bit more time" because "it's reoccurred."
The aim is for the player to ensure "the whole area around the injury is strengthened" giving it "a little bit more protection" and meaning that when he returns there is less chance of another absence.
Player and manager baffled by reoccurrence
Allardyce was also confused as to how the injury has reoccurred, admitting that Cattermole himself is too because "he thought he was OK" and "he didn't have any symptoms."
The manager suggested that "maybe" the "two games in five days" last month - which saw them come out with back-to-back wins after defeating Crystal Palace and Stoke City - were wrongly "overlooked" by the club and staff, leading to the injury.
"Maybe...we...should have said 'whoa, step out of this one," Allardyce continued, but this is the beauty of hindsight, whereas, at the time, as already admitted by the boss, Cattermole was fine and not feeling any sort of knock coming on.
Furthermore, the team "were so desperate for a couple of wins" that "nobody ever suggested" leaving Cattermole out, giving how crucial he is to the team.
"I didn't think about it," Allardyce admitted, but Cattermole "didn't complain" either, so even if "that was the cause," then fingers cannot really be pointed given that there were no suggestions that the injury was coming.