ACCRA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Ghana coach Claude LeRoy said captain Stephen Appiah remains a vital part of his African Nations Cup squad despite missing the tournament through injury. Appiah, who has a knee injury which is likely to keep him out for the rest of the season, will join up with his Ghana team mates on Friday. 'He brings something extra. He is the natural leader of this team, so it will be great to have him with us,' LeRoy told Reuters. 'When you are a coach it you must not be afraid of having a big star around you, trying to help you.' Appiah, who will stay with the team throughout the tournament, played the last Nations Cup in Egypt with an ankle injury, hobbling through three matches in midfield. LeRoy said his absence this year was a serious blow to Ghana's chances. 'We have been working step by step to find a solution to playing without him. At the beginning it was very difficult, we felt the loss on the pitch because he has been our tactical backbone. We miss him a lot,' Le Roy added. The tournament , hosted by Ghana, runs from Jan. 20 to Feb 10.