Fletcher sidelined with ankle injury
Sunderland have been dealt a significant blow with the news that striker Steven Fletcher has suffered ankle ligament damage.
Fletcher, 25, was stretchered off during the early stages of Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday night after landing awkwardly.
Although earlier scans had revealed there was no break, the former Wolves man will now miss between four and six weeks of the season after receiving confirmation that he has incurred ligament damage. Should his ankle require surgery it would rule Fletcher out for the rest of the campaign.
That would leave Sunderland's top scorer unable to make an impact, with the club hovering precariously above the relegation zone. Currently just four points clear of safety, the Black Cats are bottom of the form table without a win in seven games.
Sunderland also face a string of difficult fixtures this month, including visits from Manchester United and Everton as well as trips to both Chelsea and Newcastle.
Speaking to ESPN, former Sunderland defender Michael Gray concedes that while the injury is a blow, the time for one of Fletcher's teammates to step up is now.
"You have to say it's a huge blow," he told ESPN. "You look at the goals to games Steven has got this season he's been one of the shining lights, you've got to say that.
"Any side are going to miss a player like that, especially one that are in the position Sunderland find themselves in. It's going to be huge. You look at the fixture list that's coming up and you're looking for the other strikers to step up to the plate.
"The likes of Connor Wickham who's been out on loan and has came back to the side, Danny Graham obviously looking for his first goal, maybe even Stephane Sessegnon. We don't know if Martin's got a different role for him to play in the side.
"He's going to have to have a word with his coaching staff and they've got to come up with a solution that's going to get points on the board. We're looking for that shining light, someone who's going to give the rest of the squad a little bit of a boost."
The Black Cats manager may also call on youngster Mikael Mandron, who he invited to train with the first team earlier this week. At 6ft 3ins, the 18-year-old is viewed as one of club's brightest prospects and was recently offered a new contract.