Ashton initially broke his ankle in a training session in 2006
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola says he could be without Dean Ashton until April as the striker continues to recover from a long-term ankle injury.
The 25-year-old picked up the knock in training and has been out since September after undergoing surgery.
Zola said: "I don't think we will have him back in January or February, but I hope soon.
"I can't say whether he will be back in March, April, February... it depends how he progresses."
The Londoners have scored only five goals in their past 12 matches and are 17th in the Premier League table - one point above the relegation zone.
Zola said he was pleased with Ashton's progress but insisted he would not be rushed back into the team.
"This is the season so far," added Zola. "I've lost him, probably the best finisher in the team.
"He had an operation and will wait a couple of months before we can assess him. He is progressing very well.
"These things are down to the subject, how he reacts and improves.
"He had something causing problems with the cartilage in his ankle but because of his previous injuries it couldn't be a quick thing because they don't want to do any more damage."
"I've had problems at the club and so many things going on. But we'll face it all and we'll come through because we are strong."
Since breaking his ankle in August 2006, Ashton has been plagued by injuries.
He signed a new five-year deal with West Ham in June shortly after winning his first England cap in the friendly against Trinidad & Tobago.
Ashton, who scored 11 goals last season, joined West Ham from Norwich for Â£7.25m in January 2006 and helped the club to the FA Cup final, where they lost on penalties to Liverpool.
His performances that season earned him an England call-up for the friendly with Greece in August 2006.
But he broke his ankle in training for that game and missed the whole of the 2006-07 season, and also suffered injuries during the 2007-08 campaign.