Rotherham United captain Lee Frecklington may undergo surgery next week as he braces himself for a month on the sidelines.
The midfielder damaged his ankle ligaments at Leeds United on January 2 and could have an operation on Monday in his bid to return within four weeks.
“It’s a big loss but he is quick in his recovery,” said caretaker manager Paul Warne. “I think he’ll be back pretty sharp.”
Frecklington has been plagued by ankle problems this season and has missed 10 league matches.
Meanwhile, Richie Smallwood says he bears no hard feelings towards the man who cost him more than four months of his Millers career.
The midfielder, a key man in Rotherham’s 2014 League One promotion season and two subsequent Championship survival campaigns, was allowed to leave on loan by former manager Alan Stubbs in August.
Smallwood, back at New York Stadium after being recalled this week from League One Scunthorpe United by Warne, said: “I did feel a bit hard done by, but I don’t hold grudges or anything like that. I didn’t hate him. I didn’t think he was a bad guy.”
Smallwood fell out of favour as Stubbs recruited heavily before being sacked in October and played only five times for the Liverpudlian until his switch to Glanford Park.
“That’s just how it was. That’s football,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s a game of opinions and his opinion was that his own players who he brought in were better than me.
“We just had a chat. There was no falling-out. He said that if an opportunity came my way I could take it. One came up and I decided to take it.
“Maybe I should have waited, like a couple of the other players, and would have got a few more games when he left.”
Smallwood, who could be in the Rotherham squad for tomorrow’s second-tier clash at home to Norwich City, made more than 100 appearances for the Millers as they climbed out of League One and then twice defied the odds to stay up.
But he feels he has unfinished business at New York Stadium.
“I have got a point to prove - and to myself as well - that I can still play at this level,” he said. “I think I can, I will be working hard, like I always do, and hopefully I can get some games.”
Warne has cast doubt on a New York return for ex-loan goalkeeper Emi Martinez, even though he is in the market for a new shot-stopper as first-choice No 1 Lee Camp has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
“I love Martinez. We had him here before,” the interim boss said. “I just don’t know whether he would be in the availability or cost bracket.
“I had a good conversation with the chairman (Tony Stewart) and he would rather sign players than have them on loan because we are trying to build a side for next season.
“If we get Martinez in, that’s all well and good, but then come the end of the season we will have the same problem again. We are trying to get players in on a longer-term basis.”
Arsenal’s Martinez played eight games for the Millers as they sealed safety under Steve Evans in 2015.