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Rangers star Andy Little ruled out until new year

By Stuart McKinley

Andy Little has given fans a thumbs up from his hospital bed as he comes to terms with spending the next couple of months on the sidelines.

Smiling through the pain of serious facial injuries, however, is, for a while at least, more than he can bare.

Little isn't expected to play again this side of the New Year after being involved in a horrendous collision during Rangers' 3-1 win over Dunfermline on Wednesday night.

The good news for the Northern Ireland international is that he should be able to tuck into a full Christmas dinner.

Now that is something for him to smile about.

The scoreline was still blank when Little jumped for a header with Dunfermline's Alex Whittle after 25 minutes and ended up coming off the worse in a sickening clash of heads – after he had made contact with the ball.

The 24-year-old was treated on the pitch by paramedics for six minutes before being stretchered off and taken to Southern General Hospital, where x-rays revealed a broken jaw and a double fracture of his cheekbone.

It was anticipated he would have surgery yesterday in an attempt to speed up the healing and recovery process. The operation has, however, been delayed until next week.

A lot of swelling remains around the area to be operated on and surgery won't take place until that has reduced, with Monday the likely date.

Instead of going under the knife, Little posted a picture of himself on his Twitter page, with the swelling clearly visible – but with a raised thumb to show that he was in good spirits – and wrote: "Thank you for all the messages. These things happen, going in for some sort of surgery this morning. #BackInNoTime."

He later confirmed the news of the delay to the surgery in another tweet, which said: "Out of hospital. Unfortunately need to wait until Monday for surgery because of too much swelling! Taken back by all the msgs. Thank you."

How long it does take him to come back remains to be seen, but early January has been suggested.

The broken jaw will be allowed to heal by itself, while plates will be inserted to aid the repair of the two fractures to his cheekbone.

Little will do little more than rest for the next couple of weeks, while his diet will consist of liquids and soft foods.

The upside of being ruled out over the Christmas period is that he will get to spend it with his family in Fermanagh and the injury should have healed sufficiently for a turkey dinner to be consumed.

The sight of Little being carried off on a stretcher and being supported by a neck brace had family members concerned that he had suffered major head injuries.

They were just as relieved as he was to discover that, while serious, the facial damage will heal within weeks rather than months.

Sadly for Little, injuries are something that he has grown used to since breaking into the Rangers first team.

He was handed his debut in October 2009 in the white-hot heat of an Old Firm battle.

His big day lasted just 11 minutes, though, as Little was substituted having suffered a hamstring injury in the opening minute of the match.

Despite scoring a Goal of the Season contender in a League Cup clash against Kilmarnock in October 2010, the season was largely a write-off for him.

Little had surgery on both hips and was out of action for six months, but despite missing most of the campaign he was handed a new 12-month contract by the club.

The injury jinx struck again at the start of the 2011-12 season after he went on-loan to Port Vale in August 2011.

He signed for Vale until January 2012, but the move was cut short after less than two months because of a knee ligament injury.

Little fared much better last season, scoring 25 times as the Gers won the Third Division title – justifying his decision to stay when he could have walked on a free transfer.

This year he has been in and out of the team and with a new contract to play for this latest setback has come at a bad time.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has still been keeping Little in his thoughts though, calling him up as recently as last month for the 1-1 draw in Israel. His catalogue of injuries have impacted on Little's international career though, with just eight appearances since making his Northern Ireland debut in March 2009 against Poland.

There is one thing on Little's side though as he battles back from his latest blow.

His flat mate is the club physio, so he won't have far to got for treatment.

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