Scotland midfielder John McGinn is out for around the next three months after fracturing an ankle, Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has predicted.
That timescale would take his recovery right up to Scotland Euro 2020 play-off dates.
Steve Clarke’s side will face Israel at Hampden on Thursday March 26th with the final away at either Norway or Serbia, the following Tuesday. If McGinn was not available it would be a major blow to Scotland’s hopes of reaching a first major final since 1998.
McGinn was forced off after eight minutes of Saturday’s 3-1 Premier League defeat at home to Southampton. In attempting a challenge, his left foot got stuck in the Villa Park turf, leading to the fracture.
Villa boss Smith said: “He’s on crutches. Obviously, he’s very disappointed, he’s got an ankle fracture.
“He’s a strong character, though. He’ll come back a stronger person for it, and a better player.
“It’s a big loss because he’s a key player with the energy, drive, qualities and enthusiasm he has. He will be sorely missed, but it gives opportunities to others as well now. We wish him a speedy recovery.”
Asked how long McGinn, below, would be sidelined for, Smith replied: “I don’t know. Hopefully as soon as possible. If I was going to guess, I’d say three months.”
Smith has not ruled out the prospect of finding cover in the January transfer window for the Scotland international.
“It probably changes your stance a little bit in the market in terms of what you’re looking at,” assessed Smith.
“We’re all aware, in losing John, how it affects the team. While it gives the other lads opportunities, we’re also looking out there to see what we can improve for the football club as well.”