Ashton out until November after ankle break
West Ham striker Dean Ashton is expected to be out until mid-November after suffering a broken ankle during an England training session.
It is a bitter blow for the 22-year-old, who would have made his senior international debut against Greece tomorrow night before embarking on a first full Premiership season and a campaign in the UEFA Cup.
But Ashton now faces 12 weeks on the sidelines and the miserable prospect of missing some major games for both club and country.
He will have to sit out England's first four Euro 2008 qualifiers, just as manager Steve McLaren is looking to build a new-look side.
And West Ham are set to be without their £7.25million record signing for at least the first 10 league games of the season plus next month's two-legged UEFA Cup first round tie.
Hammers manager Alan Pardew said: 'We are absolutely devastated. It's a massive blow for Deano and his family, and for everybody here at West Ham United.
'We look forward to a speedy recovery from Deano and hope to see him back in action very soon.'
November is a major month for both West Ham and England - and Ashton has a potential international debut, a league game against Chelsea and European football to aim for.
England face Holland on November 15 - 13 weeks' time - in an international friendly in Amsterdam.
And if West Ham do win their first-round tie, Ashton could be back playing in time to feature in at least two of the Hammers' UEFA Cup group matches.
In the meantime, Pardew will look towards Bobby Zamora, Carlton Cole and Teddy Sheringham to fill the void alongside Marlon Harewood, who was Ashton's likely strike-partner at West Ham.
Pardew's decision to sign Cole for £2million from Chelsea, questioned by some at the time because it took West Ham's tally of strikers to five, is already looking a wise move.
'We are extremely disappointed by the news but, on a positive note, we still have four quality strikers at this club which will suppress the blow somewhat,' said Pardew.
West Ham enjoyed extraordinary luck on the injury front last year - but that good fortune is not holding.
Matthew Etherington is out for the first three games of the season with a knee injury while Yossi Benayoun has a groin problem.
Pardew is working hard to strengthen the depth of his squad. He has already added six new faces and wants another wide midfielder, while the signing of England goalkeeper Robert Green could be completed as early as tomorrow.
Green was undergoing a medical today after Norwich accepted a bid that could rise to £2million.
Ashton was delighted to hear his old Norwich team-mate is bound for Upton Park.
He told the Evening Standard: 'I've never seen another goalkeeper like Robert in the flesh.
'He's a fantastic shot-stopper and one of the best professionals I've worked with.
'He puts long hours in on the training pitch and will be a fantastic signing for West Ham, I'm sure of that.'