Aston Villa central defender Curtis Davies is likely to be out of action until early next year after undergoing a shoulder operation.
Davies has been dogged by the problem since his days as a West Brom player but it had started to recur on a more consistent basis.
It flared up during the pre-season Peace Cup tournament against Porto and then in both legs of the Europa League qualifier with Rapid Vienna.
Villa manager Martin O’Neill is braced for the worst scenario and believes it will be “fourth months plus” before Davies is fit to return.
Striker Luke Moore – now at West Brom – was on the sidelines for that period of time after having surgery for a similar setback during his time as a Villa player under O’Neill.
O’Neill said: “We said that if this continued to happen then we would have to have a look at it (surgery).
“It wasn’t a regular feature last season to be fair when Curtis wore protection on the shoulder for most of the time.
“But it had been occurring more regularly now than it did before, although Curtis was always keen to try to play.
“The operation went well and it was reasonably routine. He will obviously now be out for a fairly lengthy time.
“There is no exact timescale but these things usually clear up in four months plus.”
Villa’s lack of other defensive options – Carlos Cuellar was the only available experienced centre-back – led to O’Neill making late raids into the transfer market.
He signed James Collins from West Ham for £5m and followed that up by acquiring Richard Dunne from Manchester City for £6m.
Dunne and Collins could both make their debut in Sunday’s derby against Birmingham at St Andrew’s.