Linfield midfielder Phil Charnock has been ruled out for up to 12 months with a serious knee injury.
Phil Charnock (left) will be out for up to 12 months
The 28-year-old former Liverpool and Bury player has undergone surgery for a cruciate ligament injury.
Charnock picked up the injury in Linfield's 3-1 Irish League victory over Crusaders the week before Christmas.
The injury was not thought to be serious at the time but it failed to respond to treatment.
Charnock went into hospital for an investigative scope but it was discovered that there was damage to the main ligament.
His loss will be a big blow to the Premiership leaders.
''It's a terrible blow for us,'' said manager David Jeffrey. ''No-one was sure how serious the injury was, but it was discovered that is was a problem with the cruciate ligament. The surgeon said everything went well.
Charnock was on a one-year contract and had made 18 appearances since his move from England at the start of the season.
Meanwhile, David Jeffrey has rubbished reports that he has signed Trinidad striker Jason Scotland.
''I don't know where this has come from. It's absolute rubbish,'' he said.