THERE was heartbreaking news for Stags midfield ace Jon D'Laryea ahead of Friday's first home friendly with Leicester City (7pm) as he learned he needs another operation and could be out for anything between six weeks and three months.
On the back of Giles Coke's departure, it is a massive blow to boss Billy Dearden who personally drove D'Laryea to see a specialist in the North-East on Monday.
But former Crewe midfielder Lee Bell and ex-Stags loanee Matty Piper are training with the club and hoping to win themselves a contract.
"This leaves a big hole for us with no Giles or Jon," said Dearden.
"They were two big players for me and for the club.
"But we have just got to get on with it and if I need to add two more we can add two more. I don't know if that would be before the weekend though.
"I went to watch a game on Saturday and will be watching a couple more this week to see what's knocking about."
D'Laryea suffered an ankle injury at Notts County on 10th March and quickly had an operation which sidelined him for the rest of the season.
But the ankle has continued to dog him as he worked hard in pre-season training and a scan on Monday revealed bleak news.
"He told me I have a small crack in the bone and the two ruptured ligaments are still ruptured," said D'Laryea.
"So no wonder it was hurting. He said I could be back within six weeks but as long as 12 weeks, depending on what he has to do when he goes in there.
"But I am feeling quite positive about it. In a way I feel happy now I know what the problem is as I didn't know why it was still hurting me.
"Now I am looking forward to getting fully fit and I am sure the hunger I have felt over the last four months watching the lads will make me a stronger and better player. I can't wait to get back."
Manager Dearden added: "It is devastating for Jon. It is a big setback for the club, the player and everyone concerned.
"I am very disappointed for him, breaking down only four days into pre-season training.
"I drove Jon up on Monday, we left at 6.30am and didn't get back until 8pm. Now he will go back on Friday and have the operation.
"He is the one player more than any that I wanted fit for the new season.
"He is a very important player in the squad and we missed him when he was out injured last season.
"He was at the training ground again on Tuesday to watch the rest of the lads training as he just wants to be involved."
Central midfielder Lee Bell will get his first opportunity to impress against Martin Allen's Foxes this Friday and Dearden said: "Lee has done very well in training and now I want to see him in a match situation.
"But, on what I've seen, I would like to think we will take him anyway regardless of looking for one or two more this week. We would just need to sort something out with him."
Bell played 53 times for home town Crewe, where he had started out as a trainee. He was then loaned out to Shrewsbury Town and Burton Albion before leaving Crewe to sign a short term contract with the Brewers.
However, things didn't work out there and he was released in April.
Simon Brown (slight knee strain) and Dan Martin (calf) were both back in training yesterday (Tuesday) after picking up injuries last week.
"We have stepped training up this week but I have to be careful as we don't have the biggest of squads," he added.
"I don't like chopping and changing too much but I think we will use 16-18 players against Leicester on Friday.
"No one should read too much into the players I start with until the Huddersfield game which is our last friendly and so will be the most realistic of them.
"The lads are buzzing now and we are looking forward to the Leicester game."
Although the Foxes are also playing Notts County on Saturday, new boss Allen has already signed 11 new faces so both games are expected to feature strong squads.
Admission to the Leicester friendly on Friday is 10 adults and 5 concessions.
But you can save a fiver if you buy tickets for all three friendlies together by 5pm tomorrow (Thursday).
Stags will send mixed teams of reserve/youth players to Teversal on Saturday (3pm) and Belper Town on Monday (7.30pm).
Irish midfield Stephen Dawson continues to train with the Stags but has still not made any approach to the club to sign a contract.
"Stephen Dawson has had this contract in front of him for three months now but has not replied and it is up to him," said Dearden.