Keith Southern’s future almost certainly lies away from Fleetwood Town, with boss Graham Alexander questioning his long-term fitness.
The midfielder was a landmark capture last summer - joining after being released by Championship side Huddersfield.
The start to his season was delayed by injury – a mystery problem, which later turned out to be a hernia, putting his debut back to October.
Southern’s Town career lasted barely 90 minutes, the 34-year-old carrying the can for Fleetwood’s FA Cup exit at the hands of Cambridge United.
Following that match, he was sidelined for months, eventually taking to Twitter to let fans know he was fit but not being selected.
Just days after that post, the midfielder was sent out on loan to League Two Shrewsbury, where he made six appearances under former Town boss Micky Mellon.
Southern was not part of the squad for Fleetwood’s opening friendly, a 1-0 defeat at AFC Fylde last Thursday, and has not travelled to Germany with the first team.
And Alexander gave a grim assessment of his Highbury future.
“Is the door still open for Keith? Probably not, I’ll be honest,” he told The Gazette.
The Fleetwood manager then backtracked, suggesting it would be wrong to completely rule out the former Blackpool man.
“We don’t know if he’s up to the physical standards we expect,” he explained.
“I think he’s got a slight niggle at the moment.
“But if he got back to the maximum fitness he can, we’d probably never say never.
“He has been a good player in the past but it will be difficult
“I probably won’t close the door completely because it’s stupid to do that. We need him to match the physical fitness levels we set.”
The Gazette understands Southern has been training with Town’s under-21 and youth squad and could join their pre-season trip to Austria rather than linking up with Alexander and the senior squad.
The midfielder still has a season remaining on his contract, a situation which suits neither him or the club.
Town have the option of looking for another loan deal, allowing Southern to find first team football elsewher, or buying out his current deal and potentially freeing up a significant chunk of their limited wage budget.
Either way it seems likely Southern has played his last game for Town.
Meanwhile Gareth Evans, made an appearance for Portsmouth at the weekend.
The winger, who is understood to have turned down a new Town contract, played 45 minutes for Pompey against Havant and Waterlooville.