HARTLEPOOL United have confirmed that defender Neil Austin has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
The 30-year-old full-back has been told he needs an operation to repair his injured toe after struggling with the problem for six weeks.
Battling Austin hasn’t played since going off in the second-half of the goalless draw at home to Scunthorpe United at the start of February after injuring himself while making a block.
The club’s medical staff have been working hard to try and prevent the need for surgery, including recently having Austin fitted with orthotics in an attempt to give better support to the affected area.
But a specialist has confirmed the only route left was an operation.
Boss Colin Cooper said: “I said at the time that I would never be-little an injury and after this period of time when it hasn’t settled down the specialist has said he needs to have the surgery.
“Buster, our physio, works very hard and I think he knew early doors something wasn’t quite right but it’s taken this long to let everything in and around the joint settle down so the extent of the problem can be seen on a scan.
“We’ve gone down every avenue to try and help Neil but now the specialist has told us that the only alternative is to have the operation.
“It’s a blow for us but Neil is a top professional and knows the score so I’m sure he just wants to get back to fitness as soon as possible,” Cooper told the club’s website.