Leeds United loanee Joe Gelhardt could become Sunderland's first-choice striker after Ross Stewart was stretchered off with a concerning injury in their 1-1 draw against Fulham in the FA Cup.
Stewart suffered an Achilles injury in an innocuous challenge with Fulham defender Issa Diop during the first half at Craven Cottage. The Scotsman has scored 11 goals in 15 games across all competitions for the Black Cats this term, and only returned from a long-term shoulder injury in December.
Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray shared the concerns of every supporter when he revealed that Stewart's latest injury could possibly rule him out for a 'long, long, time'.
"He's got a big protective boot on," Mowbray said of Stewart. "It's an Achilles injury. I've just been speaking to the doctors there - he's not hopping about and screaming, but potentially it could be a complete tear and it could be a long, long, time.
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"But let's wait and see. I shouldn't really jump to conclusions - I'm not a doctor - he's got an Achilles injury, it popped and he could hardly run and we're a bit concerned about him, to be honest."
The Black Cats fended off competition from Wigan Athletic and Middlesbrough to sign Gelhardt from the Whites on loan until the end of the season.
His arrival could take on extra significance as Stewart's injury will possibly see him lead the line for Sunderland in the coming weeks. Mowbray experimented with Amad Diallo, Adam Pritchard and Jack Clarke all being deployed as a false nine at various stages during Stewart's previous spell on the sidelines.
Ellis Simms also filled the void when he returned from his own injury spell but the forward was recalled from his loan spell by parent club at the end of December.
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