Josh Cullen’s hopes of impressing Manuel Pellegrini enough to earn a recall have been dented this week.
The midfielder has suffered an injury during his loan spell at Charlton Athletic.
With West Ham short on numbers in midfield, Cullen would have been hoping for a January recall.
But this latest setback has damaged his chances of ever making the grade at West Ham.
West Ham have suffered several injuries in central midfield, limiting Pellegrini’s options in that department.
The Chilean likes to play with a 4-3-3 formation but has struggled to find three central midfielders to make up the numbers in the middle.
Declan Rice is the only man who has been a permanent fixture in that midfield trio.
Mark Noble has received a suspension, Pedro Obiang spent some time out injured and then Carlos Sanchez, Manuel Lanzini and Jack Wilshere are on the long-term absentee list.
With a shortage in central midfield, recalling Cullen in January would have been an option.
Ex-Hammer and current Charlton manager Lee Bowyer confirmed that Cullen has picked up a serious shoulder injury.
The 22-year-old was taken off in the 80th minute of Tuesday night’s win over Walsall.
Bowyer told cafc.co.uk: “Josh Cullen dislocated his shoulder, it’s just unreal.”
What next for Josh Cullen?
Cullen has impressed on loan at Charlton and Pellegrini would have been watching him.
But this injury setback will be a major frustration for the Republic of Ireland under-21 skipper.
With a spell on the sidelines looming, it is unlikely that he will return to West Ham and play for the Irons.
And after playing nine senior games for West Ham, a permanent exit could be on the cards when his contract expires next summer.