A KNEE ligament injury has ended ex-Wanderer Thibaud Verlinden’s season just five games into his return to parent club Stoke City.

The winger, a popular player with Whites supporters during his short spell on loan this season, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in Tuesday night’s defeat at home to Preston North End.

In his fifth substitute appearance since leaving the UniBol, the Belgian replaced Bruno Martins Indi 10 minutes before the end of Tuesday night’s Championship game but only lasted around five minutes.

He went down under a challenge from Preston full-back Darnell Fisher and was helped off the field by members of the Potters’ medical staff, leaving the Bet365 Stadium in a leg brace and using crutches.

“It’s with a lot of sadness that I have to write this message to say that yesterday’s game was my last game of the season,” the 20-year-old posted on Twitter.

“It’s not an easy injury but I promised myself, my family and the fans that I will recover from this and come back stronger!”

The length of time taken to recover from ACL injuries depends on the severity of the tear or sprain and could be anywhere between two and six months, though a minimum of nine months is the expected timescale for a player to return to full mobility.

Verlinden made his Wanderers debut at Rotherham in September and took just four minutes to open his goalscoring account, though the Millers went on to win the game 6-1.

He also found the net in a 3-1 defeat by Rochdale and Bolton’s 1-1 draw against Shrewsbury over the Christmas period. And Keith Hill made no secret of his desire to extend the midfielder’s loan until the summer.

While he impressed during his spell at Bolton, for his part Verlinden, pictured below, spoke highly of the experience and how it should stand him in good stead for his future career.

“It’s been absolutely brilliant everybody’s been really good with me, from the players to the staff from the people who work at the club, it’s been really good,” he told The Bolton News shortly before his loan arrangement came to an end in January.

“I’ve played a few games now in League One and it’s a good experience, Keith [Hill] and Flicks [David Flitcroft] have helped me a lot, it’s been hard but a really good experience.

“I’ve learned a lot, it’s not easy at times but playing against good teams and players who sit back and for me that’s been good to learn.”