West Ham striker Dean Ashton faces a month on the sidelines after it was confirmed he requires an ankle operation.
The England international will go under the knife next week and early indications are that he could be out until the end of October. That would make Ashton unavailable for five Barclays Premier League fixtures and England's World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Belarus.
The club said on Thursday night: "Dean Ashton will undergo arthroscopic surgery to his left ankle next week to help assess the extent of his injury."
Ashton has already had to sit out last weekend's 3-1 Barclays Premier League win over Newcastle and the midweek Carling Cup defeat at Watford since suffering the original injury in training.
News of the surgery will be a blow for new West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, who is yet to see Ashton play, but the setback could be eased slightly if Craig Bellamy proves he has recovered from a groin injury in time to play against Fulham.
The Welsh striker has made just one appearance this season, scoring off the bench in the 4-1 home win against Blackburn.
Bellamy would slot neatly into the 4-3-3 formation Zola employed with such success against Newcastle last weekend, when new Italian striker David di Michele scored twice.
Carlton Cole impressed Zola with his performance as the lone striker in that line-up and he could also return after missing the Watford defeat with a slight ankle injury.
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