BALLARAT Red Devils have been dealt a major blow on the eve of their biggest season in history, with player-manager James Robinson going down with a knee injury.
The star recruit is expected to miss up to the first two months of the Victorian National Premier League season, requiring surgery for an injury sustained in an intra-club practice match.
He is expected to go under the knife in about 10 days, with the recovery process to take a minimum of six weeks.
Robinson is understood to have injured his meniscus in his knee and will require an operation.
Reds chairman Duncan Smith said it was far from the ideal start to what would be one of the toughest seasons the club has competed in.
However, he hinted at some further key signings as proof of the Reds’ progress, including one import expected to be announced this week that is rumoured to be the biggest name to ever pull on the Ballarat kit.
Competing in Victoria’s elite soccer league, Ballarat will be up against a raft of former National Soccer League clubs and traditionally powerful Melbourne-based sides.
“It’s very disappointing (to lose James), it makes it that much harder for us,” Smith said.
“We’re up against it enough without our best players going down before the season starts.”
With their new show pitch at the Ballarat Regional Soccer Facility still months from completion, the Reds will not play a home game until May 3 – the seventh round of the season.
Smith said he had hoped Robinson would be available for the first home game of the year.
“He’s one of the marquee players of the league. Not having him out there definitely hurts,” he said.
“But you have to get on with it and hopefully he can be back as soon possible.”
Robinson, originally from Liverpool, played seven A-league games for Melbourne Victory, but is best remembered for his critical semi-final goal that advanced the club to its first grand final in 2007, which it won 6-0 over Adelaide.
Victory also won the premiership that season.
Robinson also had stints with Melbourne’s A-League rivals Perth Glory and North Queensland Fury.
Ballarat Red Devils opens its season on Saturday, March 15 under lights against Bentleigh Greens at the Kingston Heath Soccer Complex.
Robinson was unable to be contacted by The Courier yesterday.