Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Stephen Ward will be sidelined for up to three months due to injury, the Premier League club confirmed on Wednesday morning.
Ward had started Wolves' first three games of the season following their promotion from the Championship but his embryonic top flight career has been interrupted by a knee injury.
An operation revealed damage to his cartilage and the Irishman will now miss up to 12 weeks of the season, despite Wolves' initial hopes that the problem would not prove too serious.
"We thought it was going to be a little tear and he'd be out for a couple of weeks," manager Mick McCarthy told the club's official website. "But having seen the specialist he has had to have the cartilage repaired.
"It's really disappointing for Wardy because he has waited so long to get to the Premier League and when he got here he's been great and started the season really well. We'll get him right though, and there will still be a large part of the season left when he gets back."
Ward joined Wolves from Bohemians in January 2007 and has started 75 league games for the club.
The head of Wolves' medical department, Steve Kemp, added: "The procedure discovered a problem which can't really be seen on a scan and only becomes clear during the operation. The good news for Stephen in terms of his long-term career is that the cartilage tear could be repaired and the cartilage didn't have to be removed.
"Unfortunately for the short term for him and the team it means he'll be out longer than expected and it's likely to be two to three months rather than two to three weeks."