Ashington FC central defender James Harmison has undergone a hernia operation which automatically rules him out of the FA Vase clash against his former club North Shields at the Daren Persson Stadium on Saturday.
The 34-year-old said: “I've originally had the problem since the end of last season but thought it would settle down over the summer.
"However, it surfaced again when the new campaign kicked off so I had to get it fixed as soon as I could.
"To say I’m gutted and devastated at missing the tie on Saturday would be an understatement.”
He continued: “I knew I was going to sit out both the Northumberland Senior Cup match and league game against the Robins, but when the draw for the Vase was made I couldn’t believe it.
"It’s a hard tie, we couldn’t have asked for a more difficult game against the holders, but we have nothing to fear and will go in with confidence and have a real good go.”
Harmison is also a close mate of Robins custodian Sean McCafferty and paid the stopper the ultimate compliment.
“Sean is one of the best keepers in the league,” he said.
“I have played in the same team as him at North Shields and Bedlington but never against him.
"When I returned to Ashington he went to Whitley Bay then back to North Shields.
"He’s got the nickname ‘Sheep’, but on Saturday I hope we don’t allow him the opportunity to graze in his own penalty area.”
As for a projected comeback date, Harmison said: “I have not set a target but I plan to be back sooner rather than later.”