Gary Waddock admitted Oxford United had been hit by a double blow after it emerged Ryan Clarke and Andy Whing require operations which are expected to rule the pair out of pre-season.
Clarke, United’s player of the season, will go under the knife to cure a long-term bone issue in one of his feet, and the goalkeeper could also miss the first month of the new campaign.
Whing is due to have surgery this week on a hip injury, which is believed to be linked to the groin problems which saw him miss four months of this season.
Waddock, United’s head coach, knows the senior players will be missed, but hopes taking action now would reap benefits in the long term.
He said: “They are big blows. Both of them are very influential within the group on and off the pitch.
Andy Whing is due to undergo surgery on his hip injury
“But they have to have these operations and we have to deal with it as best we can. If you are going to be out, this is the best time to have it done.
“In terms of timescale you can’t put a finger on it, but when they get back they will have to have a pre-season, which is hard on their own.
“The most important thing now is to get them right.”
Clarke tweeted: “Devastated the foot needs an op, but quick recovery again and will be back even stronger and better again, no problem.”
The lay-off opens the door for Max Crocombe, who has not played for the first-team since keeping clean sheets in the final three games of the 2012-13 season.
Waddock was clear Crocombe deserves a chance to stake his claim and has plenty of faith in the 20-year-old Kiwi.
He said: “Young Max is a talented keeper and it’s an opportunity for him. I have been very impressed with him since I’ve been here.”
There was no news yesterday on the outcomes of James Constable and Tom Newey’s contract offers.
Waddock had hoped for answers by the end of last week, but said the time for a decision was “fast approaching”.
OXFORD United have announced five pre-season fixtures, including a home friendly against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Sky Bet League One champions will visit the Kassam Stadium on July 29.
U'S PRE-SEASON SCHEDULE
(all games in July)
Sat, 12th: Farnborough (a) 2pm. Tues, 15th: Oxford City (a) 7.45pm. Thurs, 17th: Colchester Utd (a) – behind closed doors. Sat, 19th: Didcot Town (a) 3pm. Tues, 29th: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H) 7.45pm.
OXFORD United youth team midfielder AJ George has been called up for Antigua and Barbuda’s Under 20 squad for World Cup qualifiers next month.