SUE Smith has suffered a potentially career-ending injury on her Doncaster Rovers Belles debut.
The 32-year-old England star faces at least nine months on the sidelines after a scan revealed she had damaged her cruciate AND medial knee ligaments during Sunday’s 2-1 FA Cup win at Barnet.
Belles boss John Buckley told the Free Press that the horrific extent of Smith’s injury had “destroyed” him and left him “lost for words”.
But he has backed the Merseysider to make a full recovery.
Buckley said: “Since I took the job this is the lowest I’ve ever felt.
“It’s just destroyed me.
“It’s a disaster for Sue and a disaster for the club.
“I just don’t know what to say.
“The only positive is that Sue has got such a strong mind-set.
“If I was a gambling man I’d put money on her coming back from this.”
Smith, one of England’s most successful and recognisable players in the history of the women’s game, had just returned from international duty at the Cyprus Cup in time to make her first competitive appearance for Doncaster at Underhill.
She scored a spectacular equaliser for the Belles but was then stretchered off after half an hour after landing awkwardly at the side of the pitch.
Smith had hoped to be included in Team GB’s squad for the London 2012 Olympics.
Buckley said: “You could see from that opening half hour that Sue is just in a different class.
“She was making things happen every time she got the ball and there’s no doubt she’ll leave a massive hole in the team.
“Obviously everyone at the club’s thoughts are with her now and we just hope we’ll see her out on the pitch again.”
Belles play their first home game of the new season on Sunday.
They face Bristol Academy in the FAWSL Continental Cup at the Keepmoat Stadium (2pm).