Iron manager Russ Wilcox was left to deliver yet more bad news after seeing his side’s injury crisis worsen ahead of the defeat to Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park on Saturday.With the likes of Dave Syers, David Mirfin and Sam Slocombe all unavailable long-term, United have been forced to approach the current season without a number of talismanic figures from their 2013/2014 promotion-winning campaign.
Ahead of kick-off, Wilcox revealed a further star of that record-breaking team was set to be side-lined for a prolonged period of time, as he told The Iron Player: “Niall Canavan’s going to be out for three months, as there’s cartilage damage to his shoulder which needs repairing.
“We’ve tried to manage it, which we’ve done successfully, and he’s battled through 10 or 11 games but there comes a time when you have to be fair to the player. He’s done terrifically well to play as he did it away at Blackburn in the second game of the season, which is unbelievable.
“He’s put himself forward for every single game from then to play for this football club, and it has to end somewhere because he needs an operation. It’s another injury to a key player who performed so well for us last season.”
A further notable absentee from the trip to Greater Manchester was Canavan’s defensive colleague, Eddie Nolan, meaning Saturday’s line-up didn’t include a single player who featured in the Iron’s win against Mansfield Town on the opening day of last season.
Such substantial change over a relatively short period has seen United struggle to find serious momentum during the early part of their League One acclimatisation, and Wilcox added: “That just tells everybody what we’re having to work with, and work against.
“We’re hoping it [Nolan] is just a knock, and that he’s going to be fine for the Doncaster game, but it’s just another injury we don’t need. I’ve never known anything like it in 30 years of football; that’s not me making excuses, that’s facts.
“The injuries we’re getting at this football club, and the key players we’re missing, will affect any football club. The double-whammy is we’ve moved up a level where the opposition are of better quality, but we’ve got to keep working hard.”
The disappointment at losing both Canavan and Nolan was off-set somewhat by the return of midfielder Neal Bishop after a spell out of action, although Wilcox stressed: “It was a boost, but again he’s been out for three weeks so was tiring towards the end through cramp.
“We had to bring him off, and make another substitution, so it’s just fighting fires at the moment. It’s a really difficult period, but we have to stay strong and see if we can get through it.”
See much more from Russ Wilcox, Rory Fallon and Andrew Boyce on The Iron Player.