DENNIS CIRKIN will not be involved in Sunderland’s weekend game with Stoke City, with Tony Mowbray admitting the club are having to tread cautiously as the defender continues to recover from a bout of concussion.

Cirkin was left concussed following a collision that occurred as he scored the Black Cats’ equaliser in last month’s 1-1 draw with Millwall, and has not been involved in any contact training since.

A scan has revealed no serious damage, but the 20-year-old continues to suffer from symptoms of concussion and, as a result, Sunderland’s medical staff are urging caution.

Cirkin will take part in some non-contact training work over the next couple of days, but he will not be heading the ball or making tackles and, as things stand, there is no clear date for a planned return to the first team.

“With Dennis, it’s probably still probably a bit up in the air with the concussion protocols,” said Mowbray. “He’s had a scan and there’s no damage as such, but we have to follow the protocol until he’s fully right.

“He’s still a little bit fuzzy, he doesn’t feel fully right and so, at this moment, he might join in bits of non-contact training but nothing where he’s going to challenge for headers or go into tackles. He feels fine within himself, but he’s not 100 per cent and he has to be before he can be put back in.”

Football’s concussion protocols have been tightened significantly in the last few years, with Mowbray admitting Cirkin’s treatment is a world away from what would have happened had he been suffering from similar symptoms during his own playing career in the 1980s.

“It’s completely different,” he said. “I spent a career getting cut foreheads and getting knocked out for a bit, but then getting back up, putting a wet sponge on your head and then getting back on with it.

“It’s a lot different now, and rightly so. We’ve had some scans with Dennis, and he feels a little bit fuzzy. He doesn’t feel sharp and bright, and we need to make sure that he’s telling us that he’s ready to go again.”

Lynden Gooch has returned to training following a hip injury, but with the full-back’s training time having been severely limited over the last couple of months, he will not be considered for Saturday’s game with a Stoke side led by former Black Cats boss Alex Neil.

Gooch will step up his training at the start of next week, and should be able to contend for a place in the away game at Norwich City a week on Saturday.

“Lynden’s going to train today,” said Mowbray. “It’ll be his first day back, although it’ll be a bit non-contact training. When we get to the nitty-gritty of the session, he’ll probably drop out, but he’ll do the warm-up, he’ll do the passing and he’ll do the directional possessions and stuff like that.

“Then, when it gets into teams and trying to score goals against each other, he’ll probably drop out of that. That’ll get built up over this week.

“It won’t be for this weekend (a return to the team), but maybe next weekend, if he can have a full week of proper training, then there should be a chance of him being in contention for Norwich.”