WANDERERS are keeping their fingers crossed that Dion Charles will not need surgery to correct a knee problem which forced him to pull out of the Northern Ireland squad this week.

The 28-year-old striker has been suffering with a ligament issue in his knee since February and he had not trained in Murcia with his international team-mates as they prepared for friendlies against Spain and Andorra.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill had wanted all his senior players to report for duty but announced on Thursday night that Charles had been withdrawn from the squad. Wanderers have since confirmed that he has “begun a treatment and rehabilitation programme to try and ensure he is fit and available for the start of the new league season.”

The Bolton News understands, however, that there is reasonable doubt that the injury will clear in time to enable Charles to start pre-season, which gets underway in four weeks, and in the worst-case scenario he may need a minor operation and associated recovery time, which could jeopardise his chances of starting the season.

It is the second time that the injury has flared up whilst officially on international duty – the previous occasion being back in March when it was hoped that he would soon be back playing for Wanderers in League One.

Although he finished as Bolton’s top scorer with 21 goals in 49 appearances across all competitions, he missed 12 games between the 2-1 win against Wycombe on February 13 and1-1 draw with Portsmouth on April 13, during which time the Whites lost significant ground on the automatic promotion spots.

Charles became the first Wanderers striker since John McGinlay to score 20 times in consecutive seasons but struggled to shake-off the injury completely and was still managing discomfort with injections by the time the play-off final came around in mid-May.

He lasted just 66 minutes at Wembley and was substituted for Cameron Jerome.

Eoin Toal remains with the Northern Ireland squad, who take on Spain tomorrow night in Mallorca.

Meanwhile, Wanderers have announced another fixture on their pre-season schedule, with a game against Championship side Middlesbrough at Bishop Auckland FC.

Ian Evatt’s side will head to the North East to meet Michael Carrick’s Boro, who finished eighth last season in the second tier and also met Bolton in the Carabao Cup.

Bishop Auckland play at the 1,950 capacity Heritage Park, a stadium opened in 2010 which also provided a temporary home for Darlington FC between 2012 and 2016.

The ground has 500 seats and is situated in Tindale, about a mile-and-a-half from the town centre.

Ticket information has not yet been announced but the club has confirmed an allocation will be put on sale soon.

Wanderers also announced friendlies against Stoke City (Tuesday, July 30) and Port Vale (Saturday, August 3) earlier this week.