Hartlepool United midfielder Luke George getting closer to return
Luke George will not be Hartlepool United's forgotten man for much longer.
The midfielder has this week moved onto the training ground at the Racecourse in Durham from the treatment room.
And it is hoped he will be in contention for a long-awaited debut next weekend when Pools visit South Shields in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.
It’s a boost, not just to the 25-year-old, but also to manager Craig Harrison, who made him one of his first signings after taking charge at Victoria Park.
And it’s also an exciting time for Pools fans, too, who have seen little of the ex-Chester skipper, who arrived with a reputation of not being shy to put his foot in and not being shy full stop, having captained both his previous clubs.
But the Scouser has been tortured with injury. He did get through 45 minutes at Billingham Town and Whitley Bay, plus the final half-hour at Dunston UTS, but was ruled out of the rest of pre-season.
George struggled with calf and then hamstring trouble, which was traced to back problems last season.
A little like a ‘whodunnit’ Pools and the medical staff finally got to the bottom of it when they pinpointed the issue as being with his feet and ordered special insoles for his footwear.
He’s even had his wisdom teeth removed because of their connection to a nerve with the back.
George has gone through a lengthy recovery process with Shaun McLaren, the club’s head of sports science and medicine, head physio Phil Bulmer and strength and conditioning coach Craig Hubbard.
“Having spoken to our fitness guys, I’d like to think he’ll be available for selection next Saturday if everything keeps progressing as we’d like it to,” Harrison told SportMail.
“By then, he’ll have had two full weeks of training and, ideally, it would be nice if there was some sort of practice game
“He’s got to get his head down and work hard, but he trained fully on Monday and it’s great to have him with the lads again.”
Harrison, who watched George extensively last season when he took in Chester home games, says the player will bring a new dimension to the side.
“Luke’s a very combative player,” said the 39-year-old.
“He’s strong, he’s aggressive and he can put his foot in.
“We’re looking forward to getting Luke back to fitness, but I have to say the three lads in midfield have been fantastic.”
It means George may have to bide his time given just how effective the triumvirate of Nicky Featherstone, Lewis Hawkins and Michael Woods have been.
The trio, who all have their talents as footballers, can hardly be described as hatchet men, but Harrison has been delighted by the workrate during the team’s transformation in recent weeks.
Doing the ugly side of the game has been done so beautifully, says the manager.
“You have to do that whatever league you play, whether that’s the Premier League, Champions League etc,” said the former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace defender.
“It’s no coincidence that whatever club you look at that they’ll have three or four players who will do hat job.
“Certainly now, with football being more athletic than ever before, you have to have people who can work hard, be athletic and do he physical work.
“We are not the biggest team, but we make up for that with endeavour, heart, character – the three in midfield are pivotal to that.
“The lads cover a huge amount of ground every game .
“It’s nice having match winners, but the grafters count for so much – it’s important to have these players. We’ve won games on the back of these players.”
Despite the form of the aforementioned trio, given that the matches will be coming thick and fast in the National League, FA Cup and FA Trophy, you suspect George will get an opportunity at some juncture.
Next week’s trip to Mariners Park would appear to be an excellent point of return for him, though Harrison scoffed at a SportMail question if he would be ringing the changes against the FA Vase kings.
“I will be playing my strongest team to try to go through,” he said.
“Unless we’ve got injuries, we won’t be doing any of that [wholesale changes].”