Arsenal forward Theo Walcott will not rush his return from a serious knee injury and could miss the start of next season.
The England international ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the closing stages of Arsenal’s FA Cup third-round victory over Tottenham earlier this season.
The injury was the same as that suffered by Saints striker Jay Rodriguez against Manchester City earlier this month – and it means both Rodriguez and ex-Saint Walcott will miss the World Cup in Brazil this summer as a result.
Twenty five-year-old Walcott – a controversial omission from Fabio Capello’s final World Cup squad in South Africa four years ago – says he will only consider playing again when he feels completely ready.
“I am not pushing myself to be fit for the World Cup or anything like that. I want to be back quickly, of course, but safely, too,” he said.
“I want to try and be back for the early part of next season, that is the goal, so there will be a lot of hard work throughout the summer and during the World Cup.”
He added: “It has nearly been four months now and my recovery has gone on track so far.
“At the moment, I’m working on muscle strength and building muscle in my quad.
“I don’t see any point in being down in the dumps about the injury because it has already happened and there are a lot of people with worse problems in the world.
“I will just get on with my work – I am first in and last out on most days.
“I see the consultant soon, too, and hopefully he will give me the thumbs up to push on. I would love to be running in a few weeks.”