MORTON defender Alan Lithgow fears he could miss the start of the campaign with his pre-season preparations derailed by a knee injury.

The centre-back says he can’t put a timeframe on his return to training as he continues to recover from the injury that kept him out of the final three games of last season.

The 34-year-old is yet to join the rest of his team-mates for pre-season training which got underway last week.

He told the Tele: "I'm still recovering from it and still working on recovering from the injury.

"I don’t know how long I am going to be out to be honest.

"Initially it was diagnosed as tendonitis.

"I found out over the summer that I have got a tear in my patellar tendon.

"I am just going through treatment and rehab with that just now."

The former Livingston man says it has been frustrating not being able to take part with his team-mates as they prepare for their first friendly away at Annan this Saturday.

He said: "It is not great. The running has been tough. It is not good for me.

"I would rather be in there with them. I am rubbish at running, horrendous at it, but I would rather be in there with them than sitting at the side.

"I will need to do the work at some point. I can’t go into games not being fit.

"It will just be a case of getting back into training as quickly as possible and doing some extra work away from football as well."

With the signings of defenders Jack Baird and Darragh O’Connor, the Ton defender expects stiff competition for places in Dougie Imrie’s defence this season.

And Lithgow says that can only be good for the team.

He said: "Competition is always welcome.

"We need players for cover also for times like just now when somebody is injured.

"We need other centre-backs there as well.

"We don’t know what formation the gaffer is going to play yet either.

"We don’t know if he is going to go 3-5-2 still, or 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or whatever.

"I think we’ll look into that as soon as the games are coming.

"With me being out they’ll be playing a four at the back just now, but we don’t know what that will be in the future.

"That is obviously up to the manager to decide that."

With Gavin Reilly, Gozie Ugwu and Gary Oliver leaving this summer, Lithgow is disappointed Morton couldn't keep more of last season's key men.

However, he believes Imrie's summer signings will stand Ton in good stead this season.

He said: "They are important players to the squad.

"Obviously I would have liked to of kept more of the boys together, but it wasn’t to be.

"We have a decent squad and hopefully the gaffer can add a few more.

"We have lost players like Gav, Gozie and Gary Oliver, so I’m sure the manager will be trying to replace them."

The defender has also welcomed the signing of striker Jai Quitongo, who rejoined the club on Monday after leaving Queen’s Park.

He said: "He is a good addition to the squad.

"He has obviously got something that we haven’t really had with pace.

"I know Gavin was quick, but Jai has a different kind of pace, so he offers something different that way which is good."