JOHNNY Russell has backed his Derby County team-mate George Thorne to bounce back stronger from his latest knee injury.
Thorne suffered a devastating blow on Thursday when he was ruled out for up to nine months less than a week after signing from West Bromwich Albion.
The 21-year-old midfielder has undergone surgery to repair Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) damage.
He was injured during the first half of the defeat by Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday night in the first of the Rams' two games in Austria.
This is the second ACL injury of his short career so far although the one playing for Albion at Everton in January 2013 was in his right knee.
Russell (pictured) knows the frustrations of being out injured.
The striker spent two separate spells out last season. The first was with a broken leg – the same leg he had broken while playing for Dundee United. His second spell out was down to a fractured cheekbone.
Russell says he is "gutted" for Thorne.
"The club worked so hard to get him in and he has only been here a week and now he has been ruled out for the majority of the season," said Russell.
"He was a vital part of what we did last season and we were looking forward to him being with us again.
"But he is a positive guy. He will work as hard as he can to get back as soon as he can.
"Now it is up to the rest of the boys. There are players capable of stepping in, but we will miss George."
Thorne has vowed to return to action before the end of the season.
"Obviously gutted doesn't really cut it, but I know how to handle it," said Thorne.
"I appreciate all the messages guys."
Thorne played a dozen games for Derby while on loan last season and helped them to finish third in the Championship and reach the play-off final at Wembley.
"Don't forget what the team achieved last year," he said.
"Exciting season ahead and I'll join the lads for the run-in. Look forward to seeing the iPro rocking."