Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is convinced midfielder James McCarthy will return from ankle surgery a better player.
The 19-year-old had an operation this week after damaging ligaments in a tackle from Bolton's Fabrice Muamba a fortnight ago. Latics had initially hoped the in-form Republic of Ireland international would recover without the need to go under the knife but there were fears intensive rehabilitation could cause problems in later life.
"He is going to come back stronger and, physically, probably in a better situation than he was before the injury," said Martinez.
Wigan are now hoping the former Hamilton player will be back in action before the end of January.
Martinez said: "The most important thing is to see James McCarthy getting back on the football pitch with no problem in that ankle.
"The best way to do that is to make sure the two ligaments in the ankle that were ruptured heal properly. This is the best treatment.
"He is now starting his recovery programme and is looking in good spirits, but it is probably going to be the best part of three months."
Defender Emmerson Boyce is expected to be sidelined for another 10 days with a hamstring injury, ruling him out of Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Blackburn.