West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola has revealed that Dean Ashton is unlikely to return to action until March at the earliest.
Ashton has been sidelined since September after he had to undergo surgery on an ankle injury picked up in Zola's first training session. Initial thoughts were that the striker would be out of action for less than a month, but Zola admits he has no idea when he will have Ashton at his disposal again.
"He had an operation and will wait a couple of months before we can assess him," said the Hammers boss. "He is progressing very well."
He added: "These things are down to the subject, how he reacts and improves. I don't think we'll have him in January or February, but I hope soon.
"He was due to start running on the treadmill and doing rehab with personal physio.
"I spoke to him a couple of days ago and he's happy with the progress.
"I can't say whether he'll be back in March, April, February...it depends how he progresses. I don't know honestly, it is impossible to say so soon.
"He had something causing problems with the cartilage in his ankle but because of his previous injuries it couldn't be a quick thing because they don't want to do any more damage."
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