City boss Glenn Roeder was this morning counting the cost of Dejan Stefanovic's horrific knee injury after it was revealed that the 34-year-old Serb has cruciate ligament damage.
To be fair, Canary staff and fans alike feared the worst after seeing him stretchered off during last weekend's 2-2 draw with Preston.
And Roeder admitted today ? on the eve of a home clash with the upwardly mobile Swansea City – that it will be a long road back for the former Pompey captain – a road paved with plenty of hard work.
“He's calm at the moment,” the Canary chief told the official City website this morning.
“But I have to say, when he initially got told, I don't think it sunk in. It's upsetting for him at his time of life. At 34, as a professional footballer, you are very much near the end of your career and the last thing you need at that age is a serious injury.
“We're not going to put a time span on it at the moment but if it's a straightforward cruciate ligament repair operation, then it could be anything from eight to ten months until he's back playing again.
“But let's wait and see until after the operation has been done in the next couple of weeks.
“Dejan must be prepared for some incredible hard work. This is an injury that if you're not prepared to put the work in, you won't make a full recovery. He must realise that and work harder than he's ever worked in his life.”
One saving grace, however, is that Stefanovic will be under the watchful eye of one of the very best surgeons around. If anyone can get the cultured defender back as soon as possible, it will be him.
And Roeder is more than confident that he will give Stefanovic a fighting chance of pulling on a Canary shirt again. Because let's face it, a cruciate knee injury at the grand old age of 34 is an almighty challenge for body and mind.
“The surgeon who will perform the operation, in my opinion, is the best,” Roeder continued. “Andy Williams has operated on some of the most famous footballers in the country and has done this type of operation hundreds and hundreds of times on elite athletes.
“It makes sense to go to who is considered as the best in our opinion, and in his profession he is very highly thought of.
“When Matthew Bates was with us last season, we sent him to Mr Williams for a third cruciate repair, which Middlesbrough were happy about. Matthew's just played his second full 90 minutes this week so things are going well for him.
“The rehab will also be important and our new physiotherapist, Simon Spencer, has made a big impression on everybody. He's more than up to doing the correct rehab that Dejan is going to need.”
And as for the actual incident, the 'half empty' camp will say it just sums up City's frustrating season so far.
With the Canaries picking up plenty of knocks and niggles during 08/09, Stefanovic's absence will hit the City squad hard. He was one of only a few 'leaders of men'.
But, this is football. Sometimes the luck goes with you, sometimes it doesn't.
“How often do we see serious injuries like this occur? When you look at the incident, it's ridiculous – if you look how he did it, you see that situation hundreds of times in a season and people don't even get any injuries from it, they just carry on playing.
“He's got a ruptured cruciate ligament, we hope there's no other damage on the outside of his knee.”
Meanwhile, in other injury news, City striker Antoine Sibierski has been ruled out of the Swans encounter with the knee injury he sustained last week. He is, however, expected to be fit for next weekend's televised clash at Nottingham Forest.
“Hopefully we'll have him back for the Forest game, added the City chief. “That's not definite but that's what we're hoping for. If it wasn't to be, he'd definitely be OK the following week.”
With Darel Russell also missing after he saw red in last Saturday's eventful PNE clash, Roeder will be forced to make at least three changes.
At this stage of proceedings, Gary Doherty, Mark Fotheringham and either Jamie Cureton or Arturo Lupoli look set to deputise.
For the visitors, boss Roberto Martinez is expected to make a number of changes to his side following the midweek Carling Cup exit at the hands of Malky Mackay's Watford.
Leon Britton was one of the players that sat out the 1-0 defeat against the Hornets with a back complaint and will undergo a late fitness test before the squad travels to Norfolk.
Andrea Orlandi (thigh) and Tom Butler (hamstring) continue their return from injury, as do Joe Allen and 'keeper Dorus de Vries, while Marcos Painter (knee) is out at least until April.