Sunderland have been dealt yet another significant injury blow ahead of their League One run-in.
In a statement posted on the club website, Lee Johnson confirmed that centre-back Jordan Willis, who had initially picked up a knock during the clash with Shrewsbury Town back in February, is now facing a further nine to 12 months on the sidelines after undergoing surgery.
In reaction to the news regarding Willis, Sunderland Echo journalist Phil Smith stated that the defender’s further injury was a “huge blow” for Johnson and his side.
With Johnson having only confirmed on Tuesday that Willis’ fellow centre-back Dion Sanderson will miss the remainder of the season due to a back injury, the 39-year-old must be wondering if the universe has something against Sunderland achieving promotion from League One this season.
While it hadn’t appeared overly likely that Willis would be fit to feature in either of the crucial upcoming games against Plymouth Argyle and Northampton Town, the recent injury to Sanderson, as well the longer-term absences of Arbenit Xhemajli and Tom Flanagan, has now left Johnson with only Bailey Wright available as a senior out-and-out centre-back in his first-team squad.
These injuries would be a nightmare for a manager to deal with at the best of times, but during a period in which Johnson’s side have gone from automatic promotion contenders to potentially slipping out of the play-off places with a loss, the Sunderland boss will undoubtedly be raging about his bad luck.
Furthermore, the timescale of the injury to Willis means that the defender’s absence is not only something which will affect Sunderland presently but will also continue to do so next season, whichever league the Black Cats happen to be in.
In any case, Johnson’s challenge to guide Sunderland out of League One has just become that little bit more difficult.