The combative midfield player has been dogged by a knee problem for the past few months and was rested during the festive programme. It was hoped that the break would improve his knee but he suffered a setback at Bramall Lane and will now undergo a cartilage operation, which could sideline him until late February.
It is a bitter blow for manager David O'Leary who, although loath to mention the paltry side of his squad, is none the less aware that the team can hardly do without another injury setback. “Losing Gavin is a big blow, because he has been such a key player since he came here 18 months ago,” Tubbs said. “He’s an unsung hero. He doesn't get many headlines, but anyone playing alongside him appreciates the contribution he makes.”
O'Leary has been boosted by the return of Thomas Hitzlsperger following a lengthy spell out with a thigh problem and the German international could return to action against Norwich at the weekend. But Hitzlsperger is not of the same defensive ilk as McCann, and Mathieu Berson - le crabe (so called because he moves only sideways and not particularly quickly) - could take his mantle.