KEIREN WESTWOOD is set for an extended spell on the sidelines as he is likely to require surgery to repair a long-standing shoulder injury.

The Sunderland goalkeeper has been struggling with a shoulder problem all season, and was forced to pull out of international duty with Republic of Ireland at the start of the campaign.

It is understood that he had an injection at that stage in the hope of remedying the problem, but it reappeared after he was involved in a collision with Hull defender Paul McShane during November's 1-0 defeat at the KC Stadium.

Westwood has been sidelined ever since, and while Sunderland's medical staff are yet to decide on the exact course of action, an operation looks increasingly inevitable.

“Keiren is seeing a specialist and is still feeling it a little bit,” said Black Cats boss Gus Poyet. “We need to make that decision now on what is the next step with him. It's a medical decision which we need to make.

“It's difficult to decide what will be better for him – an operation or not. The medical staff need to be convinced, but an operation is one of the options.”

With youngsters Jordan Pickford and Joel Dixon currently deputising for Vito Mannone, Poyet is expected to enter the transfer market to sign a more experienced shot-stopper next month.

In better news for the Black Cats, Steven Fletcher is available for tomorrow's home game with Norwich City after missing Tuesday's Capital One Cup win over Chelsea because of an illness.