Newcastle midfielder Alan Smith could be sidelined for three months after being told he needs surgery to repair a stress fracture.
The 27-year-old former Manchester United player is to have an operation to repair damage to his foot and is unlikely to play again this year.
Caretaker boss Chris Hughton said: "Alan Smith will have an operation which could keep him out for about three months."
That will come as a blow to Hughton and whoever succeeds Kevin Keegan as manager with the squad currently massively depleted by injury and suspension.
Smith, a £6million Sam Allardyce signing, struggled to establish himself at St James' Park in his first season and has not figured at all during the current campaign.
But although the player is yet to win over the fans, both Allardyce and Keegan were delighted with his attitude and effort.
Indeed, it is understood one of the reasons for Keegan's resignation was the club's efforts to offload him, along with several other high-earners, as the summer transfer window drew to a close.
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