Craig Harrison has praised ‘strong character’ Keith Watson as he edges closer to return from ‘out of the ordinary’ injury.
But the Hartlepool United manager says the club are refusing to put a timeframe on any potential first-team return.
Watson has remained at Pools’ training base after suffering the knee issue back in September, even though it is expected to see him sidelined beyond the end of his loan from St Johnstone.
The injury itself is like nothing Harrison, or Pools’ medical staff, have ever experienced.
Harrison described the 28-year-old’s problem like something more often seen in car crash victims, or high impact sports like rugby.
And, due to the recovery process, it is impossible for Pools or Watson to know when he will play again.
With that brings its own mental challenges, as Harrison, whose career was ended by serious injury, knows all too well.
“He is doing pitch recovery at the moment,” said the manager, discussing his defender.
“The frustrating thing for myself and Keith is that it is symptomatic led.
“It’s basically a day by day thing, asking him ‘how did you feel after that’ and passing a different hurdle every day.
“It would be reckless of us to put a timeframe on it, because it is another freaky injury.
“If our physio goes on for another 30 or 40 years, he may never see another injury like it.
“It’s normally car crashes that produce this kind of trauma, or rugby injuries, because it was pure impact.
“It is nothing muscular or ligament. It is just out the ordinary for a footballer.”
Many expected Watson’s chances of an extended Victoria Park stay to be over when he was ruled out long-term, but Harrison says there is method in the perceived madness of keeping a player who may not kick a ball for months.
“Even if it was seven, eight, nine weeks to him coming back, we could work to that, but the frustrating thing for him and me is that we cannot say that,” said Harrison.
“He is a strong character not having that finishing line – I think that is why he stayed here.
“He was a big part of our team at the start of the season – he is well liked and an influential figure.
“He is experienced and respect as well.
“I can’t speak for Keith, but I think, using my own experience as a player, it would have been tougher for him to go back to St Johnstone because he would then be isolated.
“Here, he’s a mainstay in the dressing room.”
Watson is on a long list of players who will miss out on today’s FA Trophy clash at Workington.
One player who was added to the treatment room this week was skipper Carl Magnay, who could miss the whole festive period with an abdominal problem.