Andy Kellett’s miserable campaign is over after the luckless Wigan Athletic star suffered knee ligament damage for the second time this season.
The 23-year-old was forced to limp off after an hour of the home defeat to Aston Villa on March 18, and scans have revealed the disappointing diagnosis.
While it’s the same knee Kellett damaged in pre-season, which caused him to miss the first four months of the campaign, it’s a fresh injury to the other side of the joint.
Neverthless, Kellett is back on crutches and already setting his sights on next term.
“He’s out for the season unfortunately,” reported interim boss Graham Barrow.
“He’s damaged his knee ligaments again.
“It’s a shame because he was one of the players who’d shown in my first week (in the job) what he was capable of.
“He’s a quiet lad but he’s someone who does his talking on the pitch.
“You’d come in after training and think: ‘Andy did well again today’.
“With Stevie (Warnock) out he really took up the gauntlet, and I thought he played ever so well against Villa for an hour.
“We were actually about to move him further up the pitch – like we did at Barnsley last year – and I really think he could have helped us unlock the door.”
Kellett has been restricted to just five appearances this season – having played in only a dozen games last term – and Barrow admits his misfortune has been as much a blow for the club as for the player.
“Andy’s such a unique talent – his change of direction is as good as anyone I’ve seen – and his early pace is great as well,” enthused Barrow.
“He’s just been really, really unlucky, and you’re just looking for him to work hard this summer and come back stronger than ever.
“I think he just needs to toughen up his body to be honest, to be able to better handle the physical side of the game.
“There’s many players of his size been able to do that, and hopefully he can get himself back up and running.
“If we can get him fit for a whole season, that’s some player we’ll have.”
Barrow has been impressed with how Kellett responded to his latest setback.
“I have to say mentally he’s managed to take it all in his stride, which is credit to him,” said Barrow.
“You’re just hoping he can stay injury free and then we can really see the best of him.
“He’s obviously a good defender, but it could be that offensively is where we see the best of him, and that’s really exciting.
“Whatever happens he certainly has a future here, which is the main thing.”
While one door has closed in Kellett’s face, another could be opening for fellow left-back Reece James, who himself has been out since January last year with an ankle problem.
“The news is a bit better with Reece,” Barrow added.
“I didn’t think he was showing up as well as others, but Andy’s injury could be another chance for him.
“He’s been down in the dumps having been out for so long.
“Injuries happen to everyone, but he’s taken it harder than most.
“Hopefully he can get his chin up now, and get out there and fight for a place.”