Sunderland manager Steve Bruce fears his young midfielder David Meyler could be sidelined for up to 12 months by a knee injury.
The 20-year-old Irishman will have surgery tomorrow to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and the ligament on the other side of his right knee.
Bruce believes Meyler will be out of action "until at least Christmas" and could be missing for a year. He told the club's website, www.safc.com: "It looks like a really serious injury for the kid. He's in Bradford as we speak and will be operated on Friday. It's a nasty end to the season."
Meyler suffered the injury during Sunday's 1-0 home defeat by Manchester United, when he had to be taken off on a stretcher. The club confirmed yesterday that the initial scans had revealed ligament damage and lost little time in booking him in for surgery tomorrow.
Bruce admitted before the United game that Meyler and his fellow youngster Jordan Henderson had already saved the club millions in transfer fees after emerging from the ranks to claim regular starting. The former Cork City player made his senior debut at Blackburn on 28 December and had taken his tally to 12 when disaster struck.
Meyler's form for Sunderland also caught the attention of the Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni, who called him up for an end-of-season training camp. Now he will beginning the long haul back towards fitness knowing he may have to write off the 2010-11 season completely.
Another Black Cat set for surgery is the goalkeeper Craig Gordon, though his need is less pressing. The 27-year-old Scotland No 1 will have an operation after Sunday's final Premier League game at Wolves to remove the metal plate inserted in his arm after it was fractured in a collision with the Spurs striker Jermain Defoe in November.
Gordon will then spend part of his summer break back on Wearside rehabilitating before the start of the new season. He said: "I will have the operation to get the plate out and then I will be in the hands of the physios here for my rehab, however long that will take. Hopefully, I will be fully fit and ready to participate in pre-season training."
Gordon was out of action for more than two months but returned for the FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Portsmouth on 23 January and has been the man in possession ever since. In the view of many fans, the £9m signing has since produced some of his best displays for the club.
Meanwhile Sam Allardyce is determined Blackburn Rovers will get rewarded by what teenager Phil Jones does on the pitch rather than what they could get in the transfer market.
The 18-year-old Jones has enjoyed a brilliant start to his Rovers career since being elevated to the senior ranks due to Ryan Nelsen's knee injury and Christopher Samba's suspension. Despite a baptism of fire against both Chelsea and Manchester United in a five-match run in the side, Jones did not look out of place and played a major role in the home draws against both.
Chelsea and Manchester City have already been linked with the Preston-born defender, and that astute talent spotter Arsène Wenger has also been impressed by Jones. Allardyce has already noted that Chris Smalling, a player of similar inexperience at Fulham, will join Manchester United in the summer, and seen Jack Rodwell's name get touted around at Everton.
Allardyce is pragmatic enough to accept that every player has his price but wants Blackburn to enjoy some reward for their investment. "We are determined to hold on to Phil," he said. "When you have spent so much time and effort developing a player you want to see the club benefit as much as possible by him playing on the field, not by the finance you are going to get.
"Blackburn have ploughed a huge amount of money into the academy for no reward recently. But Phil is a local lad and to see him come through like he has is absolutely magnificent."