Hartlepool United’s Nathan Thomas has been ordered to go under the knife by a specialist, ruling the winger out of action until January.
Hopes had been high that the wideman would miss just a few weeks with the groin problem, picked up midway through the second half of last weekend’s 3-2 loss at Barnet.
But the issue was deemed serious enough for a specialist to advise an op, which, according to the club, looks set to keep Thomas sidelined until the New Year at least.
A Pools statement read: “The Pools winger was re-scanned under the guidance of the surgeon on Wednesday evening and results confirmed the extent of the damage to his adductor-longus muscle.
“Thomas will now undergo an operation in Bradford on Friday before beginning a rehabilitation programme in line with the surgeon’s protocols.”
Pools head physio Ian Gallagher says the problem sustained by the club’s top scorer is very rare.
But he insisted the player is in the best possible hands thanks to the club hiring the best possible care.
He said: “This is quite a rare injury, but he will be in good hands.
“We have enlisted the services of the best surgeon in the business for this type of problem.
“Nathan will need two weeks’ rest after the surgery and then we will follow the advice we’re given.
“If all goes to plan with the operation, then I would expect to see Nathan back in action at some point in January.”
The news comes as a massive blow to manager Craig Hignett, who, despite fearing the worst, had hoped to have the 22-year-old back in a matter of weeks.
Instead, Hignett is today facing up the reality of being without the in-form, in-demand former Sunderland trainee until the turn of the New Year, at the earliest.
Earlier this week, the manager expressed his disappointment at the loss of such an influential, creative player such as Thomas.
Although he does see this an opportunity for some of the other players within his squad to step up to the plate.
“There is no doubt we will miss Nath,” said the manager.
“He is a big player for us, but this is an opportunity for someone else to come in and stake a claim.
“A few of our players are easily capable of stepping in and holding a place, not just for one game but for weeks.
“We want them to do that.
“Woodsy (Michael Woods), Dev (Nicky Deverdics), Jake Orrell – they all knocking on the door.
“Bradley Fewster, when he is back, will have a chance. He is not far away.”
For those fans who are worried Pools don’t contingency plans in place, should one of their stars leave before January is out, Hignett has moved to allay those fears.
He said: “That’s what being a manager is all about.
“You lose your best players as a manager. It happens at any club.
“We are forward-thinking here. We have already been looking.
“And we have five or six players we would like to have a look at.
“We won’t be waiting here until something like that happens. There won’t be any panic when he inevitably does leave.
“We are planning for it. We are very active in doing that.”