West Ham boss Alan Curbishley fears Dean Ashton's comeback from a broken ankle could be delayed until February.
Ashton, 23, has been out of action since suffering the injury on England duty at the start of the season and was expected to return next month.
However, Curbishley told the London Evening Standard: 'I'm told that Dean will not begin serious training until the end of January or even early February.''
Ashton arrived at Upton Park from Norwich at the start of the year and made an instant impact, helping the club reach the FA Cup final and finish in the top half of the Premiership.
His injury has contributed - along with takeover speculation and the arrival of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano being held responsible for unsettling the squad - to a disappointing campaign for the Hammers.
They are still recovering from a run of eight straight defeats earlier in the campaign and Curbishley replaced Alan Pardew as boss last week as the club look to get out of the bottom three.
Curbishley got off to a winning start against Manchester United on Sunday but is yet to train properly with his squad.
Full-back Paul Konchesky has denied a rift with Curbishley stemming from their time together at Charlton when the manager played him in midfield.
Konchesky said: 'There was never any problem between us other than I wanted to play left-back.'