MY heart sunk when I read the news of Freddie Sears’ injury heartache on Monday afternoon.

It’s another monumental blow in a season of lowlights and dejection.

Ipswich will certainly miss the striker as he starts his long road back to fitness, having been ruled out for nine months at least with a knee injury.

The former England Under-21 international was substituted in the first half of Sunday’s derby defeat at Norwich after a tackle with Tom Trybull.

A scan subsequently revealed damage to his anterior cruciate ligament and, from a personal perspective, I feel desperately sad for the former Colchester United man.

He’s said he’s “devastated” and understandably so. It’s crushing news.

In my opinion, Sears has been Town’s best and most consistent performer this season (admittedly, there aren’t too many candidates).

He’s the six-goal top-scorer and while that may look a pitiful tally from the outside, you must consider the lack of quality, confidence and creativity around him.

In a better, more fluent side, he’d have at least doubled that total – possibly trebled it.

Sears, I expect, would be the first to admit he hasn’t hit top gear this season, in common with his team-mates.

But he’s one player in the side with genuine pace – a zip, industry and purpose that makes him such a handful.

He makes things happen, his effort, attitude and work-rate can never be faulted and his undoubted quality is perhaps best summed up by his recent long-range thunderbolt at Aston Villa.

How absurd to think he’s the only genuine Town player (excluding loanees) to score a winning goal this season, albeit one that took a wicked deflection before spinning into the back of Wigan’s net.

As we know, Town look doomed as far as relegation goes this season.

It would take a miracle to clamber to safety, to glean the points they need to reel in the likes of Rotherham, Reading and Bolton.

Even so, Sears would have played a monumental part in giving them the best possible opportunity.

Looking further ahead, it’s also a sickening blow in terms of missing pre-season and the start of what looks likely to be a League One campaign.

Even more important, I would suggest, than what he would have offered in the next 15 games.

He’s out for at least nine months but possibly up to a year – maybe two-thirds of next term – and that’s a big hole to fill.

I really feel for Freddie.

I don’t pretend to know him but have spoken to him several times down the years, stretching back to his time with the U’s and more recently when he visited the children’s ward at Colchester General Hospital before Christmas.

He’s energetic, charismatic and hugely likeable.

I’m gutted for him and both for his sake and that of the team, I hope he defies the odds and returns sooner than expected.