Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford could be out of action for eight weeks after damaging his knee at Manchester United, manager David Moyes has confirmed.
However, news of the 22-year-old’s lay-off was tempered by the revelation that he has not ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury which would have ended his season.
Moyes told a press conference: “Jordan has good news and bad news. The good news is he hasn’t ruptured his ACL; the bad news is he’s strained it.
“We’re looking at six to eight weeks. It’s a major disappointment for him and for us because he’s been saving us points.”
Moyes at least has a ready-made deputy with Italian Vito Mannone, who started the season as number one before he suffered an elbow injury, but is now back in the frame.
However, England Under-21 international Pickford has made such an impact that he was called up to the senior national squad by new manager Gareth Southgate for the World Cup qualifier in Slovenia in October when Burnley’s Tom Heaton withdrew, and again last month.
The youngster’s progression is being monitored by a series of potential suitors with Arsenal among those to have been linked with him in recent weeks, although the Black Cats have signalled their intention not to allow any of their bigger names to leave in January in the midst of yet another fight for Premier League survival.
Pickford and central defender Lamine Kone are perhaps the club’s biggest assets, but raising cash alone would not be enough for Moyes.
The 53-year-old is trying to bolster his squad on limited funds and losing one or more of its mainstays would inflict damage on the club’s hopes of remaining in the top flight.
Sunderland currently sit in 18th place in the table, two points adrift of Crystal Palace, who now have the Black Cats’ saviour of last season, Sam Allardyce, at the helm.
As well as Pickford, Moyes will have to do without Ivory Coast international Kone, Tunisia counterpart Wahbi Khazri and Gabon’s Didier Ndong for several weeks in the new year after all three were called up by their respective countries for the African Nations Cup.