Dundee boss Neil McCann has been dealt a big blow with Lewis Spence likely to be ruled out for a minimum of two months after having ankle surgery yesterday.
The Dark Blues boss revealed last week that the former Dunfermline midfielder had suffered the injury in training.
The 21-year-old had gone over his ankle and needed crutches with McCann hoping that was just a precaution.
However, the worst-case scenario has now been confirmed with Spence, who missed last weekend’s Dens draw with Kilmarnock, needing operated on.
It is a major setback for the Dark Blues who are currently bottom of the Premiership with Spence having emerged as a key player since he was handed his league debut for the club against tonight’s opponents Rangers at Ibrox at the start of September.
McCann said: “Lewis is in having surgery today so he is clearly out for the Rangers game.
“It is called syndesmosis which is a nasty ligament injury that can be quite troublesome. The specialist felt surgery was the quickest and best option.
“I think it is his first operation in his young career so it is a blow for him as he was doing ever so well.
“In hindsight, we maybe missed him (against Kilmarnock) as he has been providing us with a load of energy and drive.
“They have said he could be out for eight or nine weeks, all going well. But that’s being conservative with it as these things can rumble on for months. It can really linger and be troublesome so the best thing was to get it operated on.
“Best-case scenario, you are probably looking at eight weeks but with the winter shutdown coming up, hopefully he won’t miss too many games.
“It is a blow for us and we wish Lewis a speedy recovery.”
As well as Spence, McCann will also be without three other players for the game against Rangers at Dens.
He added: “Scott Bain has injured his shoulder and Darren O’Dea is suspended.
“Kerr Waddell has resumed training but he had fallen on his hand and cut it open.
“It was a nasty accident so we have had to be careful as it is in his hand and he can’t bend it until the damage is sorted.
“He is not in the squad as he hasn’t trained for nearly two weeks.”
Bain, of course, is still out in the cold after an alleged bust-up with McCann with the goalie now the subject of an internal disciplinary process.
Earlier this week it was revealed that the manager is currently running the rule over French keeper Jeremy Malherbe who is a free agent after leaving Belarusian club Dynamo Brest.
McCann said: “He is looking really good.
“He is another one who can’t really feature just now so we are just having a look at him.
“He is not attached to a club so we have been offered him and he has been working with Bobby (goalkeeping coach Geddes).”
With O’Dea and Waddell missing for tonight’s game, there is a welcome return to the squad for fellow defender Julen Etxabeguren.
The big Spaniard has been out for months after suffering an Achilles injury and McCann is looking for the centre-half to seize his chance if it comes.
He said: “Big Jules comes into the squad.
“He has been back now for a number of weeks playing for the 20s.
“Jules is fully fit after coming back from a bad Achilles injury.
“Having missed a lot of football, he is now fully recovered. He has been waiting on a chance but we have a lot of boys in that position fighting for it.
“It opens the door for Jules to get back into the squad again and he is ready.
“It is good we can call upon him.”
Rangers will arrive at Dens still licking their wounds after suffering an embarrassing defeat at home last week to Hamilton.
And former Ibrox star McCann knows his players have to be ready for a backlash.
He added: “I love games under the lights. As a player, they are the best ones to play in so we are looking forward to it.
“I am not that interested in talking about Rangers, to be honest. I don’t know about their state of mind but what I do know is that they will be looking to make amends from a defeat at Ibrox.
“Every Rangers player will tell you, that’s not acceptable to the management or the supporters.”