Black Cats manager Alex Neil has confirmed that the full-back will not be in contention to face the Owls in the first leg of the play-off semi-finals tonight.
The Scot revealed to the Sunderland Echo that “it’s going to be weeks rather than days” before the 29-year-old comes back from his knock.
He has not been able to recover in time to put himself forward to play in this huge match in the club’s bid to secure a place in the Championship next season.
Sunderland supporters will surely be fuming with this news, which comes as a big blow to the Black Cats as Winchester has been an important member of the team throughout the campaign.
Former Mackems boss Lee Johnson previously hailed the 29-year-old’s versatility on the pitch, saying: “Winnie is trusted in that position, he is trusted in midfield, in the number ten position, I could even play him centre-half if I needed to. He came in on a free transfer, and I think it has proved to be really good business.”
The Northern Ireland international has largely played at right-back this term but has also been deployed in midfield and at centre-back as part of a back three. This shows that he can play a multitude of roles for the club, and Neil would surely love to have his adaptability in his squad for this match as it would allow him to change systems in-game to suit how the match is going.
He has also showcased his quality across those positions. In League One, he has averaged a solid SofaScore rating of 6.80 in 40 appearances, helping the side to keep 10 clean sheets in that time as he put in reliable displays wherever he was asked to play.
Defensively, he has been excellent for Sunderland. As per SofaScore, he has made three tackles and interceptions and 1.4 clearances per game, whilst winning 53% of his individual duels. He has been able to consistently break up opposition attacks to set the Black Cats on their way going forward, while he has also contributed in attack with three league goals.
Therefore, losing him for ‘weeks’ – suggesting that he will miss the entirety of the play-offs – is a big blow for Sunderland, one which will infuriate fans because of the quality and versatility that will be missed in Winchester’s absence.
AND in other news, Sunderland handed double injury lift ahead of tonight, Neil will be buzzing…