NEWCASTLE Eagles have been left shell-shocked by the news that Charles Smith could be out for the rest of the season. The influential forward complained of pain in his knee after Sunday’s BBL Trophy final in Plymouth. And after returning to the North-East with his team-mates, medical staff revealed he had sustained a hairline fracture to his kneecap.

While the club are trying to remain positive by insisting that it is feasible he could be out for only four to six weeks, there are only around eight weeks left in the season. And that is providing the Eagles make the end-of-season play-off Championships in Birmingham. However, the likelihood is that unless a further scan conflicts with the initial one, it is the end of the season for the hugely popular veteran.

By his incredibly high standards, the talismanic Smith had a hugely disappointing game on Sunday, as did many other Eagles players, and it now heaps pressure on the club in their pursuit of the BBL title. While they have a two-loss cushion on their nearest rivals, the loss of Smith means that an already misfiring offence will lose one of its biggest weapons.

The absence of Smith will demand that both Steve Leven and Jeremy Hyatt in particular weigh in, although Hyatt himself has had a season dogged by knee problems while Leven has showed glimpses of his explosive talent but has yet to fully underline his potential. Smith will miss tomorrow’s game against his former club Scottish Rocks, who will arrive on Tyneside looking to pile on the misery for Fab Flournoy and his players.

However, the coach is refusing to allow his players to feel sorry for themselves. Reflecting on their final flop on Sunday, he said: ‘We were like a deer in the headlights, We never adjusted to their changes, and that’s now the second time in a major final that we’ve played like that.’

‘Obviously, that’s a concern for me. We can’t do anything about last Sunday, but we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s not all doom and gloom, but there are some issues we need to address. We’re still top of the league, it’s back to the office, and the games are coming thick and fast now.’

‘We have two major trophies to compete for (BBL Championship and play-offs), and we need to avoid a downward spiral – especially as other teams will now believe that they can beat us. We have to be thankful that our season didn’t end after the final because that would have left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth.’

‘I am sure all the guys are pleased they still have some time to make amends and there is no point in feeling sorry for ourselves. The games are running out in terms of reaching the levels that we need to. But we have a big opportunity to put our minds right, get back on track, and show we can be consistent in the last couple of months.’