COLIN Cooper has described Michael Duckworth’s return to training after a double hernia operation as a welcome “boost” to his Hartlepool United side.
But the Pools gaffer admits this weekend’s Sky Bet League Two match at home to Newport County may come too soon for the right back.
Duckworth has been out of the first-team picture since missing a late fitness test prior to the 3-0 defeat to Rochdale at Victoria Park back in January, missing six games in total.
A specialist confirmed he needed surgery and Tuesday marked a month to the day since the 21-year-old went under the surgeon’s knife.
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The marauding right-back is now back running and training with the first team at their Maiden Castle base, in Durham, to the delight of Cooper.
Popular Duckworth has been a firm fixture in the starting XI after signing from Bradford Park Avenue in the summer and his performances prior to getting injured won him many plaudits and admirers.
Cooper is now focused on getting his first choice full back fit but says Saturday’s match against Newport at The Vic could come too soon.
Duckworth is the second Pools defender to have surgery for a double hernia operation, with Jordan Richards also needing the same procedure earlier in the season, missing four weeks.
“Michael is back on the move,” said Cooper.
“It was a month on Tuesday since his operation, and that is about the same time scale as Jordan Richards.
“We will be introducing him back into training at some point this week but whether it is too soon for the weekend we will just have to see how Michael is.
“He trained with the youth team over the weekend when we left for Dagenham, and we’ll have to see where he is.
“Whether this weekend comes a few days too early, we will see, but he is not far away, which is good.
“His return will be a boost.”
The German-born former York City trainee has made a total of 27 appearances for Pools so far this campaign.
Duckworth’s replacement in the first team was initially Richards but in the Fleetwood Town match, the 20-year-old had a “rush of blood” to the head and saw red less than three minutes in.
He has since served his three-match ban and returned to the team for the 2-0 win at Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday as a result of Neil Austin’s toe injury.
Cooper added: “When Michael had to go in for his operation it was a good opportunity for Jordan and one he deserved, but unfortunately after a rush of blood to the head, that opportunity went away.
“Another opportunity presented itself with Neil Austin missing out and credit to Jordan, he got on with it and was part of a team that won away from home and he should be very pleased.
“All I want the younger players, in particular, to do is watch and learn in order to try and improve.
“They are all trying very hard but if they want to improve as young players then they have to watch themselves, talk about it and try and erase mistakes but still have the confidence to go and play their football.”