GEORGE Thorne could have played his final game for Oxford United after receiving bad news with his dislocated shoulder.

An MRI scan showed up ligament damage, which requires an operation to correct.

And with the likely recovery time set for three to four months, it wipes out the rest of his loan from Derby County, which expires in January.

Thorne is likely to stay at United for the treatment, but boss Karl Robinson admitted it was a big setback in what was supposed to be a move to prove the midfielder’s fitness.

The head coach said: “It will be hard now to see what we do moving forward.

“He’s a great man and a fantastic footballer.

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“It’s not great and we send him our wishes. We hope he’s OK.

“Hopefully the operation will be sooner rather than later.

“We’ll give him the best medical attention possible to try to get him back to that level.

“He’s gutted because he loves the team.”

While it is a blow for United, the injury is terrible news for Thorne.

The 26-year-old had joined with a point to prove after a difficult couple of years.

A calf problem in pre-season meant he has been playing catch-up for two months, but had just started to show encouraging signs.

He was handed a first start last week in the Carabao Cup tie with West Ham and looked bright before suffering the dislocation after only 19 minutes.

Thorne is the second central midfielder to be sidelined for a significant spell, following Jamie Hanson’s hamstring injury.

Robinson had felt it was worth looking at the free agent market after losing Hanson and the latest news may strengthen their resolve to make a move.

United also lost Rob Dickie to an injury on Saturday, but it is not thought to be serious.

The centre back reported a back problem and came off at half-time in the 3-0 victory over Gillingham.

Helped by the three-goal cushion and having Elliott Moore in reserve, it was an easy decision to avoid taking any risks.

Robinson said: “Rob’s fine.

“This is where you have to thank the board, because we’ve invested very heavily in that back four.

“In the past losing Rob Dickie would have put me into a bit of a panic, but we brought Elliott Moore in and he’s one of the best centre backs out there.

“It was more of a physio precaution, when it’s 3-0 at half-time there’s no point in pushing a player.

“It was more sensible than tactical. It won’t be too bad.”