OWEN Coyle’s preparations for tonight’s Europa League clash with Rubin Kazan have been rocked with the bombshell Shaun Maloney faces ‘several months’ on the sidelines.
The Scotland forward, who was dogged by a hip injury in pre-season, reported a back problem while away on international duty last month.
After a couple of opinions from specialists, Maloney has been told he requires surgery to correct the hip problem.
And his manager could not hide his disappointment at the prospect of being without his talisman for the foreseeable future.
“Shaun will be going in for a hip operation, which is obviously a massive blow to both the club and the player,” Coyle said.
“I can’t put an exact timescale on the lay-off, but we are looking at several months –and I mean several months.
“We won’t know for sure until the surgeon opens him up and sees the extent of the damage to the hip.
“But it certainly won’t be any less than three months, and the worry is that it could turn out to be longer if the damage is bad enough.”
Maloney tried to play through the pain barrier on his return from Scotland duty, but was substituted during the 2-0 defeat at Leicester on September 14 and hasn’t been seen since.
“Shaun is so conscientious, he’s a gem of a lad and all he wants to do is play football,” Coyle acknowledged. “He’s the type of player that any manager craves and wants in his football club.
“The bottom line is we have to do what is right for the both Shaun and Wigan Athletic – the situation couldn’t have been allowed to continue.
“He has another year left on his contract after this one, and we want him back to his best for as long as possible.”
Coyle also confirmed that surgery was the only solution.
“Shaun’s game is all about twisting and turning, and the hips play a crucial part in that,” he revealed.
“We’ve had a couple of opinions so we were sure what we’re dealing with, and now we’re getting to the bottom of it.
“We’ve already been without Shaun for several weeks so it’s not a new experience for us.
“All that matters now is he gets his body sorted and back playing again as quickly as possible.
“Anyone who knows anything about Wigan Athletic knows our biggest single thing is duty of care.
“We had to make sure we were doing the best thing by Shaun and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
While a hammer-blow to his side’s hopes both at home and abroad, Coyle insists Latics will be able to cope.
He also hinted he will look to bring in an extra wideman in addition to the striker he was already chasing.
“Would Shaun Maloney play a big role in helping us to achieve our goals? Absolutely,” Coyle added. “But I can’t worry about players who are not available to us.
“All I can do is focus on the players I do have and perhaps try to strengthen the squad in January. And I will continue to target players I feel will enhance the squad.
“It’s not rocket science to know we were already looking for a striker.
“Does Shaun’s injury mean we are looking to bring in an additional wide player? Probably so, and we are down the line with that.”