DUMBARTON midfielder Kevin Nicoll has revealed his anguish at being forced to miss the opening months of the new Irn-Bru First Division campaign.
The Rock star played 26 times for Alan Adamson's side last season as they clinched their place in Scotland's second tier with a play-off triumph over Airdrie United.
After agreeing a deal to keep him at the club for the new term, he was set to play a major part in Adamson's plans.
But, while the Sons are likely to face Airdrie on the opening day of the league campaign, the 26-year-old will have to watch on from the side-lines after being forced to go under the knife to cure a long-term groin injury.
The loss of Nicoll is a huge blow to the Sons ahead of the new season, which starts with a Rams-dens Cup clash at Queen of the South on July 28.
But the former Albion Rovers and Stranraer man admits he had no choice but to sit out the opening weeks of the season as he bids for an October return.
He said: "The injury is one I've been carrying for a wee while and, towards the end of last season, it became harder and harder to ignore it.
"I've been diagnosed with Gilmore's Groin, which is a fancy name for a sports hernia.
"I now need an operation, possibly two, which means I've missed the bulk of pre-season and getting back to full fitness before October will be a huge challenge.
"I'm absolutely gutted, but I have no choice and in the long run it'll be best for me.
"The club and the gaffer have been great, though, and it's encouraging to know that they will support me, but missing out on playing football is going to be hard."