Corry Evans' season looks to be over due to a persistent groin issue that will likely rule him out of Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan in June.
The Blackburn midfielder has not played since January 2 because of a problem that also plagued him last season and, though he was called up by his country for last week's international break, he did not train fully with Michael O'Neill's squad and missed the win over Norway.
Rovers boss Tony Mowbray has now revealed he wants Evans to focus on returning next season rather than this, with a fitness programme that will include a minor operation and "months" of rehabilitation work, which will almost certainly see him sidelined for his country's game in Baku on June 10.
"We've had some positive meetings, I got all the medical staff in, the doctors, the physios, the sports-science department and the boy himself and we got a plan together," Mowbray said at his press conference on Thursday.
"Hopefully that will get him ready, not for this season in my mind, as there's only four or five weeks to go, but I wanted to put his mind at rest that he shouldn't be chasing next week or the week after next.
"He needs to start his programme of intense work to make his body more robust and ready to play football week-in, week-out. Hopefully it was music to his ears that he can just get on with his programme and we agreed that he will work hard in the summer."
Evans' international colleague Craig Cathcart only returned to the Northern Ireland team on Sunday after seeing a series of specialists across Europe to get to the bottom of a groin issue that was eventually operated on.
Mowbray expects Evans to undergo minor surgery and insists it will take months for him to return to a level where he can handle the rigours of the professional game.
"The main problem has been the strengthening and the core building that needs to be done over a period of months," the Blackburn manager added.
"I think at this moment there probably isn't going to be one procedure, he may need a minor operation to help, I think that's the case, and after the scan reading, I think that's what the decision was.
"But we have talked about a longer period of time about building his body up and making it more robust for the knocks and falls of a football match."