John Hughes, the Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager, is uncertain of when he will be able to recall club captain Richie Foran to his first-team squad.
The midfielder attended the friendly match between Inverness and Fleetwood Town at the weekend but arrived on crutches, the result of a minor operation on his knee at the end of last season.
The Irishman exercises a significant influence at the Highland club and a prolonged absence from action would be a major concern for Hughes. Foran has not played since a defeat by Dundee United on March 26, when he was replaced after just 64 minutes.
Hughes remained optimistic that his side will be able to make a strong start to the new SPFL Premiership season without their talisman but did acknowledge that he is not yet able to set a date for Foran's return.
"Richie has just had a wee clean-up in his knee and I would be very reluctant at this stage to predict how long we might be without him," said the Inverness manager, who will take his strongest available side south on Saturday to play a friendly against Birmingham City. "He is obviously very doubtful for the start of the season but I wouldn't like to put a timescale on it. Until I speak to the physio and medical staff - because he only had it done the other day - I won't have an answer on that one."
Hughes was able to speak with greater conviction about the condition of Danny Devine, who twisted a knee during pre-season. "He has had his scan and the problem is not anywhere near as bad as we feared," he said.
"Likewise, Josh Meekings only missed the Fleetwood game as a precaution, while Ross Draper will be back with us on Monday. So overall the news is positive. We are making good progress in pre-season."
That sentiment was echoed by James Vincent. The midfielder is confident that the Highland side will succeed in the league again next season and acknowledged too that the players are now au fait with the manner in which Hughes wants them to play.
"The gaffer came in last season and wanted to change things. He wanted to do it differently, do it his way," said Vincent. "All the lads have bought into that. We want to get the ball down and play.
"Training has been sharp. We've been moving the ball fast, playing in short areas and I think it's coming out on the pitch now. If we can carry it on then it will be good.
"The lads are growing in confidence in how we play every step we take. We have been able to get our passing game going, work our way up the pitch, which is what we like to do, and try and score goals."