MARTIN O’Neill has admitted Adam Johnson was not fit when he played against Manchester United at Old Trafford last week.
The Easington-born winger convinced his manager he had fully recovered from a knock picked up at home to Reading four days earlier, but failed to last the 90 minutes.
Now Black Cats boss O’Neill has been left hoping no further damage has been done to him as injuries start to mount at the Stadium of Light.
He revealed: “Adam had a dead leg on Tuesday evening and declared himself fit. I don’t think deep down he really was.
“We don’t have fantastic options but we’ll try to get some of the players fit again if we can.
“If we can’t, we’ll just have to get on with it.”
An injury to Johnson would be particularly damaging as he has shown signs recently of inching back to form.
Although he did little of note in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Man United, he looked more like his old self against Reading.
O’Neill added: “He’s making an improvement.
“There are signs in each match he’s played he’s getting back to the form he showed for Manchester City to take him.”
Sunderland’s rivals might not have too much sympathy for them with an injured list which also contains Steven Fletcher (back), Danny Rose (ankle), Phil Bardsley, Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown (all knee) but even this small number of casualties is difficult for their small squad to cope with.
Rose and Bardsley are the Black Cats’ only specialist full-backs, forcing Carlos Cuellar and Jack Colback to play out of position at Old Trafford. Craig Gardner has started more games at right-back than his preferred position of central midfield.