Everton have been dealt a late season blow with the news that Leighton Baines will miss the final two games of the campaign with an ankle injury.
However, Baines’ absence does give Luke Garbutt a first-team opportunity as speculation continues about his future at the club.
Baines suffered the injury late on against Sunderland last Saturday and went to see a specialist during the week. The specialist concluded that an operation was required with Baines going under the knife on Wednesday.
Roberto Martinez confirmed that the injury had been something Baines had been carrying for some time, but that he was optimistic surgery had finally solved the problem.
"Leighton had a little bit of instability in his ankle that flared up in the last two weeks and was really painful in the last game. We got it checked and he needed a little bit of repair work so he had surgery yesterday (Wednesday).
"It was a straightforward operation to clear the ankle and give it good stability.
"He will be out now until the start of pre-season but it is exactly what he needed. He was trying to play through the pain barrier.
"It has been a problem since 2012 and the ankle has been showing signs in the last two weeks that it needed a bit of work.
"We are looking forward to getting him back fully fit and strong for next season.
"He will be back stronger than ever. He didn’t want to miss playing - he always puts himself forward when he’s not pain-free."
While 30-year-old Baines is expected to return in time for pre-season at the start of July, it still remains to be seen whether Garbutt will be.
With Bryan Oviedo also out until the summer Garbutt is in line to start the final two games of the season. But with his contract set to expire they may also be his final two appearances in a blue shirt.
Martinez has spoken about his desire to keep the promising 21-year-old at the club, but Garbutt has yet to decide whether he wants to try and compete for a first-team place at Goodison or find guaranteed action elsewhere.
With Baines 31 in December and Oviedo struggling with injury Garbutt appears a natural successor to the left-back position.
It would certainly represent a failure on Everton’s part if they didn’t persuade Garbutt to sign a new deal, especially as they could find themselves short of cover at left-back at the start of next season should Baines or Oviedo suffer a setback in their rehabilitation.
With talks continuing behind closed doors lets hope Garbutt’s late taste of Premier League action in a blue shirt will be enough to make him sign on that dotted line.