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Ashton out until the end of the season

PUBLISHED: 16:29 30 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:44 05 October 2010

By NEIL TRAINIS WEST HAM striker Dean Ashton could be sidelined for the rest of the season after admitting this week that he has no idea when he will return to action following ankle surgery. Ashton had surgery on the injury at the end of last month and

By NEIL TRAINIS

WEST HAM striker Dean Ashton could be sidelined for the rest of the season after admitting this week that he has no idea when he will return to action following ankle surgery.

Ashton had surgery on the injury at the end of last month and was originally expected to return within six weeks, but the Hammers were left reeling when subsequent reports suggested that the England international would be out of action until March.

Now Ashton has admitted that his lay-off could last even longer, dealing a major blow to manager Gianfranco Zola, who is suffering from a striker crisis following Carlton Cole's red card against Arsenal last weekend.

Cole was handed a three-match suspension after the Hammers declined to appeal the sending-off, leaving Craig Bellamy, David Di Michele and teenager Freddie Sears as the only fit forwards at the Italian's disposal.

Zola looks set to be short of attacking options for a considerable period after Ashton revealed that he is unlikely to play again this season.

He said: "The papers have said I'll be returning in March but I don't know where they have got that from. I haven't been given a date myself yet.

"It's more a case of it being at the end of the season and I'll be really happy if I can play my part in the team then. That's looking more likely at the moment.

"I'm pleased with the way surgery went and how I'm feeling. I was feeling pretty down at first, when all I could do was sit at home, but luckily that only lasted for two weeks.

"My spirits are a lot higher now I'm off my crutches. I've been off them for a week, which is a good sign. I am working hard at my rehab already and I feel like I am on the way back."

Ashton's absence has coincided with a goal drought at Upton Park. The Hammers had mustered just four goals from their opening four Premier League away games ahead of last night's trip to Old Trafford.

Zola could now call on new signing Diego Tristan to lead the line against Middlesbrough on Saturday. The former Spain international agreed a one-year deal at West Ham a fortnight ago and has been battling to improve his match fitness.

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