JAMES McCarthy is Wigan Athletic’s major fitness concern ahead of the big Premier League opener against Norwich City this weekend.
The 20-year-old picked up an ankle injury during last weekend’s friendly victory over Villarreal, which caused him to miss Ireland’s friendly against Croatia last night.
It’s the same ankle that McCarthy damaged against Bolton Wanderers last term, which ruled him out for three months around Christmas.
And although this time the diagnosis is a twist rather than further ligament damage, boss Roberto Martinez is anxious not to take any chances with his midfield dynamo.
“It was such a worrying time for everyone when James went down under that challenge and we all feared the worst,” Martinez told the Evening Post.
“But the scan showed there is no rupture or damage to the structure of the ankle, which is great news.
“He has twisted the joint, though, which has a knock-on effect to the ligament and the tendons, and that could keep him out for a short time.
“Thankfully that won’t be as long as we feared to begin with, but he is a massive doubt for the Norwich game.
“The thing is, with him being such a fit boy, even 24 hours can make a massive difference to his chances.
“But at the moment I would say that he has the least chance of playing as could be without being ruled out for definite.”
Martinez would be loathe to throw McCarthy in at anything less than 100 per cent, but he will give the former Hamilton man every chance to prove his fitness such is his value to the side.
“I think we all saw last year how much we missed James when he missed a chunk of the season, and you never want to be without the best performers in your team,” Martinez added.
“We are very strong in that midfield area, we have many options and dimensions.
“However, it’s clear James is such an important player for our team and you want him available at all times.”
Martinez will also make a late decision on whether to include Hugo Rodallega and Antolin Alcaraz, with the pair having only just returned to the club following their exertions at the Copa America.