Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher has undergone surgery on the injured ankle that has ruled him out for the rest of this season.
Fletcher, 26, a £12 million summer signing from Wolves, suffered the injury in the early stages of Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Wales last month.
The Black Cats hope this season's top scorer will be fit to return at the start of next season, with new manager Paolo Di Canio having voiced concerns about a dearth of striking options.
"I don't want to be critical, but if you're a team who wants to stay up, or a team who wants to win the league, I think you need five strikers," Di Canio said.
"You can't afford to be short on strikers. Wherever you are in the league, you need to score goals."
The situation was highlighted in Sunderland's win over Newcastle at the weekend, when academy player Mikael Mandron was the only striking back-up to Danny Graham after a late drop-out by Connor Wickham.