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Cattermole's injury woes continue
LEE Cattermole will miss at least the next fortnight, with Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill conceding the skipper could yet require surgery to correct a long-term knee problem.
Cattermole met a surgeon in London this week and was told he had damaged a tendon in his knee which was restricting his movement.
It is hoped an injection will aid the healing process and enable Cattermole to return to first-team action before the end of the month.
However, if the procedure fails, the only other option is an operation which would almost certainly rule the Stockton-born midfielder out of the remainder of the campaign.
“He went down to see the specialist and he gave him an injection,” confirmed O'Neill. “He's hoping that will cure things in the next couple of weeks, but if it doesn't we might have to have another look at things. He has missed a lot of the season and we have had to learn to cope without him.”
Cattermole has made just one Premier League start since the end of November, and there is bound to be a high degree of concern at the length of time it has taken him to recover from his current problem.
He has suffered from a series of niggling problems throughout his Sunderland career, with the January arrival of Alfred N'Diaye perhaps reflecting an increased acceptance that the Black Cats can no longer rely on their injury-ravaged captain.
A number of previous aborted comebacks have hardly aided his recovery, and while Cattermole's combative qualities would be useful in the remaining two-and-a-half months of the season, O'Neill accepts the most important thing is to ensure the 24-year-old's latest recovery does not lead to yet more problems further down the line.
“It's really Lee's career we are talking about rather than a two or three-week period here that might satisfy us,” he said. “In the long term, it's more important to get it right.
“The specialist down in London, who has a very good reputation, thinks that the last thing you want to do is talk about surgery and things like that when it might not even be needed. I think that's the way you would have approached things anyway. But if that's not the case and it doesn't improve over the next couple of weeks, well fine.”