Nick Powell has been ruled out of Wigan Athletic’s festive programme with a persistent hamstring problem.
The 22-year-old has endured a frustrating second spell so far at the DW since his summer signing from Manchester United.
And boss Warren Joyce admits it will be well into the New Year when he’s able to make a return.
“Nick wasn’t fit when I arrived at the club, and he’s not really got going,” Joyce told the Evening Post.
“We want to get him right and absolutely bang on, and able to contribute – not just edge through bits of games because he’s not right.”
Powell has proved something of an enigma since bursting on the scene as a teenage superstar at Crewe, which paved the way for a £6million move to United in 2012.
Arguably the highlight was a season-long spell at the DW in 2013/14, although he tailed off badly in the second half of the campaign after a whirlwind start.
Joyce, who worked with Powell in the reserve ranks at Old Trafford, admits the former child prodigy is fast approaching put-up-or-shut-up time in his career .
“I wouldn’t normally do what I’m doing now, because this is a clear message to him,” the Latics boss acknowledged.
“But there’s no favours or favourites just because of where he’s come from and where I’ve come from.
“To be blunt with him, this is a massive time for Nick.
“He’s got some talent, but he should have done better than he did at Manchester United, in my opinion.
“He didn’t, and a big part of that is himself.
“This is not something I haven’t already told Nick here, or at Manchester United.
“He’s got undoubted X-factor talent – he can do almost anything in football, either up front or in midfield.
“He can run, he can head, he can dribble, he can score, he can tackle. The big onus now has to be on himself.
“If he doesn’t, he could look back in 20 years’ time, and look back on a waste.”
A repeat of the early form of his previous loan spell would certainly be welcome.
“When he first came to Wigan on loan and he was fully fit, playing wide left, he did really well,” Joyce added.
“I knew he would, because I knew what he’d done in pre-season at Manchester United.
“Sometimes when he’s not been as fortunate for people to give him that chance, it’s almost a certainty, an inevitability, that he’d pick up injuries.
“The main thing now is to get Nick 100 per cent fit...and the challenge to him is to be believe in what he’s doing.”