Preston North End have recalled Tommy Spurr from his season long loan spell at Fleetwood Town due to injury.
Spurr, 31, injured his hip in Town's 3-1 defeat to Barnsley in September and has been back at Deepdale receiving treatment.
It is understood that the centre-half will require an operation hence the early return to the Championship club.
He made seven appearances but just two league starts for Joey Barton's 11th-placed League One side during his spell.
Barton says he is gutted for the defender but says that recall now frees up a slot for Town to recruit.
When asked about Spurr after Town's 0-0 draw with Shrewsbury Barton said: "Tommy has gone back.
"He's being treated by Preston.
"It is probably for Preston to comment on.
"I don't know the ins and outs to it other than he is their player, they loaned him to us, he suffered an injury, has to go back there to be assessed and they will manage that.
"I expect that will free up a loan for us.
"I am gutted for Tom because he is a good lad, a good professional but unfortunately injury is part and parcel of the game.
"When you are a club like us that can be reliant on loans you cannot afford to have a loan tied up in an injured player.
"It is one of those situations that is not ideal for us but hopefully he gets back fit and soon and maybe can force his way into the Preston squad towards the end of the season."