Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes is confident summer signing Craig Bryson will silence critics who claim he will not return to his best after ankle surgery.
The 33-year-old midfielder has gone under the surgeon’s knife and will be ruled out for the next eight weeks.
Bryson has not flown out to Dubai with the rest of the Dons squad and will remain in Scotland to recuperate.
McInnes moved quickly in the January transfer window to secure midfielder Dylan McGeouch on a two-and-a-half-year deal from Sunderland.
The Dons gaffer had attempted to land the player in the previous two summer windows and finally landed his man.
McGeouch will bolster midfield options that already include Bryson, Funso Ojo and Lewis Ferguson.
McInnes accepts it has been a frustrating start to the Pittodrie career of marquee summer signing Bryson.
He has managed just six starts and a further three appearances off the bench this season.
McInnes insists the former Derby midfielder is not injury prone and will still be a key player for Aberdeen.
He said: “For many it is maybe quick for them to assume Craig Bryson is an older player so ‘blah, blah, all the rest of it – he will not come back from it’.
“But we have to be positive and look at the facts.
“Craig is someone who is very fit and also very driven and motivated.
“He has been unfortunate and, regardless if you are 33 or 23, you just have to deal with injuries and come through it.
“I am pretty sure he will. Nothing has changed my mind from what that I felt in the summer, that Craig would be such a key player for us.”
Scotland international Bryson has not featured for the Dons since appearing as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with St Johnstone on November 24.
Saints midfielder Murray Davidson was sent off for a rash challenge on Bryson’s right ankle.
McInnes said: “We all feel that frustration. Craig feels it, I feel it, the supporters feel it.
“His team-mates all want him playing.
“I take you back to when we first signed Craig and the outpouring of people saying what a good signing he was and how important he was going to be for us.
“Craig was my marquee signing in the summer and the one that grabbed everyone’s attention.
“He was the signing we probably felt the most fortunate to get due to the level of career he has had.
“Not having him available for so long, certainly not able to play 90 minutes fully at his best, has been frustrating and disappointing for me.
“Craig is keen to demonstrate how good a player he is.
“Once he can get over this and get a good run at it, he will more than show that.”
Bryson was the first of three major injury setbacks for the Dons, with on-loan NAC Breda defender Greg Leigh suffering a stress fracture to a tibia that will rule him out for two months.
On-loan Bristol City defender Zak Vyner also suffered a dislocated shoulder in the 1-1 draw at Hearts before the Premiership winter shutdown.
Those injuries forced McInnes into seeking to strengthen the squad during the ongoing transfer window.
Bryson arrived at Pittodrie still recuperating from ankle ligament damage suffered in April at his former club, Derby.
That injury wiped out the rest of his season and denied Bryson a place in the run to the Championship play-off final at Wembley, which they lost to Aston Villa.
McInnes is quick to emphasise the surgery is to Bryson’s other ankle, not the one injured at Derby.
He said: “Obviously Craig arrived with an issue with one ankle but that one is now fine.
“Now he has the issue with the other ankle. That can happen.
“It wasn’t an issue when he signed.
“Craig hasn’t had too many injuries in his career so he’s having to deal with that side of it.
“We’re not going to get the full two years out of him now but hopefully we can get the business end of this season and certainly the next one. There’s every hope we can do that.”
The capture of Funso Ojo for £125,000 from Scunthorpe was also a major signing in the summer.
McInnes had hoped Bryson and Ojo would be the heartbeat of the midfield and the team.
However, former Belgium Under-21 international Ojo has only recently returned after three months sidelined with a hamstring tear.
Bryson and Ojo have rarely featured together this season and that is also a major source of frustration for McInnes.
The manager said: “It is disappointing that I have been without both Craig and Funso for the majority of the season.
“They are probably two of the midfield three I wanted starting.”