Exeter City will be without captain Danny Coles for the hectic Christmas period, with the experienced defender facing "a couple of months" on the sidelines.
Coles has been playing with a knee injury for the past few weeks and City manager Paul Tisdale has decided to act now and get the issue sorted rather than risk losing him later in the campaign.
"Danny's knee has been deteriorating for a while and he went in for an operation today," Tisdale said on Thursday. "He will be out for a couple of months.
"It is a blow and he has been playing for the last few weeks with a lot of discomfort and he hasn't really been match-fit. He has decided – along with our medical people – that it's best to have an arthroscopy and tidy his knee up.
"He has done extremely well to play through the last couple of years as he has – very consistently – and this was always going to happen at some point.
"We would have hoped it would happen over a summer, but that has not been the case."
Coles has come in for some criticism from Exeter fans in recent weeks, none more so than in the 2-2 draw with Bury. The 30-year-old was far from at his best then and was substituted by Tisdale with Exeter trailing 2-1, a move that led to ironic cheers from some sections of the home fans.
"Maybe one or two commentators on his form recently will become more understanding that he has been off-form recently and that's the reason for it," Tisdale said. "We thought it was a good idea to get it done now.
"He has been in a lot of discomfort recently and has not been able to perform physically at all. He's not been able to perform the basic functions of his position. And, when it prevents you from training, you are on a downward spiral.
"At that point you have to decide if you can maintain things, but we have seen over the last month that his ability to train has deteriorated.
"He should be back in training in four to six weeks, I would have thought, and so I would expect him to be back playing in six to eight weeks."
City travel to Accrington Stanley on Saturday before welcoming Chesterfield to St James' Park on Saturday week for the first of three games in nine days either side of Christmas.
City then host Wycombe Wanderers on January 1 and Mansfield Town on January 4, but only if the Stags lose an FA Cup replay at home to Oldham Athletic on Tuesday. "We did look at the Christmas fixtures but he [Coles] has not been able to play near to his best, so we thought that irrelevant," Tisdale added.