Chris Brunt has been ‘Pole-axed’ as Northern Ireland prepare to undertake the country’s most important game in 24 years.
The West Bromwich Albion winger is out of Saturday night’s World Cup qualifier against Poland in Chorzow.
Brunt suffered a calf strain in a league match 10 days ago and missed the Baggies’ last two games.
And although he will be given every chance to make next Wednesday’s game with Slovakia at Windsor Park, it is almost certain that he will have no part to play as Nigel Worthington’s side aim to take a major step towards next summer’s finals in South Africa.
Worthington will target victory on Saturday evening, not only to boost his own team’s chances of qualifying for a first World Cup since he was part of the squad in 1986, but also to put a major dent in Poland’s hopes — with a win leaving them trailing Northern Ireland by six points with just three games to go.
Jonny Evans will join the squad when they assemble at their usual County Antrim headquarters this afternoon before flying out to Poland on Thursday.
There is confusion over whether the Manchester United defender requires surgery on an ankle injury which has troubled him for some time.
The 21-year-old has said himself that he will need an operation at some stage, but United boss Sir Alex Ferguson denied that at the weekend, after Evans missed the 2-1 win over Arsenal.
Worthington also revealed last week that he was contacted by Evans who said that there is a need for an operation, but that he wanted to play in the games against Poland and Slovakia.