Newcastle skipper Kevin Nolan will miss the final two games of the season after undergoing ankle surgery.
The 28-year-old will have the operation later today, but is expected to be fit for the start of the new campaign.
The Magpies confirmed the news in a brief statement which said: “Kevin Nolan will undergo a minor operation on his right ankle later today which will see him miss United’s last two games of the season.
“The skipper has been troubled by an ankle problem throughout the season, but the operation is going ahead now in order to allow him time to regain full fitness prior to the start of United’s pre-season programme in July.”
Nolan has proved an inspirational figure for the club since their relegation from the Premier League.
His leadership qualities and 18 Coca-Cola Championship goals were pivotal in their swift return to the top flight, and 12 this time around – the first time he has ever reached double figures in the Premier League – have been a major factor in Newcastle’s successful bid to remain among the English game’s elite.
Nolan joined the club from Bolton in a £4m switch in January 2009 as then manager Joe Kinnear attempted, ultimately unsuccessfully, to stave off relegation.
His impact has been such that current manager Alan Pardew is determined to tie him to a new deal, along with the likes of Joey Barton and Jose Enrique, as he attempts to secure his key men.
Indeed, Barton hinted earlier in the season that the chances of him remaining on Tyneside would depend on whether or not Nolan stayed.
The Magpies made sure of their continued presence in the Premier League with last Saturday’s 2-1 home victory over Birmingham, and while they will be keen to take as many points as they can from Sunday’s tough trip to Chelsea and their final-day clash with West Brom, it makes sense to give their captain as long as possible to recover from his operation.
However, Pardew, who has already admitted he may have to leave Cheick Tiote out with the Ivory Coast international having reached 14 bookings for the campaign to leave himself within one more of a three-match ban, faces a problem over how to re-arrange his midfield for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
Meanwhile, the club also confirmed that goalkeeper Steve Harper will have a planned knee operation tomorrow with the 36-year-old also expected to be fit for the start of pre-season.
Harper has missed the past four games while Tim Krul has deputised, and although he has been of the bench for the last two, the Magpies have taken the decision to have the surgery done now.