Scotland forward Shaun Maloney will miss next month’s friendly internationals with the United States and Norway after he was ruled out for at least three months through injury.
The Wigan Athletic playmaker requires a hip operation but Latics manager Owen Coyle has warned the injury may be so bad that he does not return until April at the earliest.
Maloney scored a spectacular free-kick winner in Scotland’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Macedonia but picked up a back injury in the same game.
That knock has kept him out of action since – including last week’s 2-0 triumph for Gordon Strachan’s side over Croatia – and Coyle explained the back injury stems from a long-standing hip complaint which now requires surgery.
The Wigan manager said: “Shaun will be going in for a hip operation. He had it when we came into the club over the summer, an existing hip injury.
“To be fair to Shaun he tried to play through that, which we thought might be manageable for the season. But then when he was away with Scotland, he picked up a back injury that had actually led from the existing hip injury. So he will now go in for that hip operation.”
However, Coyle was unable to put a definite date on his comeback. “If I knew it was going to be three, four or five months then I could tell you,” he said. “We won’t know that until the surgeon opens him up and sees the extent of the damage.
“As it is, I think it’s certainly fair to say it will be a minimum of three months, and obviously when the surgeon opens him up, there is a chance it could be longer than that.”
Coyle added: “It’s a blow to lose such a top player, but we still have tremendous quality in our ranks and players who are motivated towards doing well for Wigan Athletic.”
Scotland, who have failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil, host the USA at Hampden on Friday, 15 November, before taking on Norway four days later.
Yesterday it was confirmed the venue for that match will be Molde. The Norwegian Football Federation announced that Strachan’s men will play at the Aker Stadion on 19 November.
The stadium holds 11,800 supporters and is home to Tippeliga champions Molde FK, who are managed by former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The kick-off time has still to be confirmed.