FLYING winger Chiedozie Ogbene will be out of action for Rotherham United until next year.
The 23-year-old underwent surgery on his damaged knee on Monday and his absence is now expected to be four months, not the initial estimate of six to eight weeks.
The news is a huge setback for the Millers, who have made an encouraging start to their Championship campaign, as Ogbene is arguably their most potent attacking weapon.
“I think it will hit the dressing room pretty hard,” manager Paul Warne said. “It gives opportunities to other players. It is ‘next man up’. I’m not going to be a baby about it, but it is a big blow for us.
“Chieo brings a lot to our offensive play. He’s got pace and he’s a really positive kid. The lads rely on him a lot during games. They give him the ball a lot.”
Warne had been keen to sign a second right winger even before Ogbene’s absence but there is no guarantee there will be a new arrival on the flank before the transfer window closes a week on Friday.
The forward’s injury is a meniscus issue and not a cruciate-ligament tear, as some fans had been fearing.
The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that provides a cushion between the thigh bone and shin bone and the original plan was for a replacement procedure, with a recovery timescale of less than two months.
However, the consultant recommended a repair operation, which is much better for the player’s long-term well-being but carries a rehabilitation period that is twice as long.
On the prospect of recruitment, Warne, who has made eight signings in this window, said: “I do need another winger. Whether we can get one who is suitable and affordable ... I’m not holding my breath on that. It might be that what we’ve got now is what we’ve got.”
He added: “It’s the same at every club when you lose one of your best players. If Spurs lose Harry Kane for a while, they’re possibly not as good and may have to play a different way.
“Maybe we are going to have to tweak the way we play. Maybe we’ll have a different system, a different shape. If we can sign another right winger to get us through to January, good. But, honestly, I’m not holding my breath.”
ROTHERHAM United are encouraging Curtis Tilt to head out on loan before he challenges for a place in the Millers’ Championship matchday squad.
The centre-half has played only an hour of first-team football since his January switch from Blackpool but is back in full training following hip surgery.
Manager Paul Warne wants the defender to build up his match-fitness by playing competitive games and the 29-year-old is one of several players he is prepared to let go before the October 16 end of the transfer window.
“Curtis has been out for a while,” the boss said. “The window might be an opportunity for him to get out and play. He could stay and fight here.
Curtis Tilt makes his sole Millers appearance so far, at Rochdale last season
“None of them have been told they have to leave. Curtis is definitely one of those at the moment who can’t get in the matchday squad.
“At any club, any player who isn’t making the matchday squad is up for a loan really. Curtis is one of several players here who is available.”
Warne pointed to the example of central defender Michael Ihiekwe who spent half a season at League One Accrington Stanley when Rotherham were last in the second tier, two years ago, and then came back to make himself an automatic selection.
There was speculation Tilt could return to former club Blackpool but there has been no contact from the Seasiders.
Warne expects some of his fringe men to depart before the deadline. Wages have been capped in League One and Two and players would prefer loan moves to permanent ones so they don’t suffer a cut in salary.
“Two or three clubs have expressed a real interest in some of our lads,” the boss said. “I’ve had a few phone calls from League One and League Two clubs. Rob (head of recruitment Scott) has taken some calls as well.
“If it’s financially viable and something the players want to do, it could happen. I think it’s a good window for players to go out and play.
“January is only about 11 weeks away and they could come back then. It’s the shortest loan period ever!
“More often than not, when I’ve loaned players out it’s because I want them to go out and play games, not because I want to get rid of them.
“We’ve got a reasonably-sized squad so there are limited opportunities for some players. I think two or three may go out.”
The Millers have no match this weekend because of the international break.
Former Rotherham skipper Will Vaulks could play against England today (Thursday). The midfielder, who left AESSEAL New York Stadium for Cardiff City last year, is in the Wales squad for the friendly between the two nations at Wembley.