'Timeframe isn't completely clear' - O'Neil 'desperate' to get Kelly back quickly from ankle injury

Cherries captain Lloyd Kelly
Cherries captain Lloyd Kelly

GARY O'Neil says he is unsure how long injured Lloyd Kelly will be out of action, admitting: "The timeframe isn’t completely clear yet."

Kelly was ruled out of Cherries' last match, the trip to Newcastle United, on September 17, due to an injury picked up in training.

There have since been conflicting media reports regarding both the nature and severity of the issue suffered by Cherries' skipper.

Kelly will again miss out this weekend when Cherries host Brentford in the Premier League.

Asked if he could provide some clarity on the 23-year-old's injury concern and how long it could rule him out, interim boss O'Neil told the Daily Echo: "Lloydy’s got an ankle injury.

"We’re not 100 per cent sure how long he’ll be, to be honest.

"The physios are working with him hard on getting him back as soon as possible, obviously.

"I’m desperate to get him back, of course. He’s massive to us.

"But on the other side of that, really pleased with what I saw at Newcastle, when we had to respond without him.

"So hopefully we get him back quickly, but the timeframe isn’t completely clear yet."

O'Neil was briefly a teammate of Kelly's during the pair's time together at Bristol City.

As O'Neil's career was winding down, Kelly was breaking into the first team with the Robins.

Kelly made his professional debut as an 18-year-old as a substitute in a 5-0 win over Plymouth Argyle in the EFL Cup in August 2017, a game in which O'Neil played the full 90 minutes.

The two would feature alongside each other three more times that season, before O'Neil moved on to Bolton Wanderers.

"He’s a great lad, Lloydy," said O'Neil, when asked how heavily involved Kelly still was as a captain whilst being injured.

"I couldn’t ask any more of him. Whether he’s injured, whether he’s playing.

"Obviously I played with him for a short spell at Bristol City and knew he was going to be a fantastic player.

"He’s a real good guy, so he’ll always want to be around it, always want to help the boys.

"I’d rather him be on the grass, but pleased that he’s helping out when he’s not."

He added: "Obviously Lloyd Kelly being missing is a massive blow. He’s huge for us.

"But as you saw at Newcastle, the boys that came in, the backline and even the team spirit and the work in front of that backline was massive for us and we’ll be looking to make sure we’re solid and resolute again."

Chris Mepham and Marcos Senesi look likely to partner up again at centre-back, as they did at Newcastle, while Jack Stephens and James Hill both also provide options in that position in Kelly's absence.