Craig Harrison says Keith Watson remains an “integral” member of Hartlepool United’s squad, despite the defender’s extended absence.
When the 27-year-old suffered a knee injury in the 2-1 victory at Leyton Orient last month there were fears Pools might have seen the last of the player.
The Scot, on loan from St Johnstone, had been excellent at the heart of the defence, but was told while surgery was not required, he faces several months in recover and rehabilitation.
In those circumstances, that process often takes place at his home club, but Saints boss Tommy Wright was happy for Pools to take care of Watson’s comeback regime.
And that suits Harrison who says Watson, who scored the opening goal in the 3-1 victory over Maidstone last month, is a crucial influence in the dressing room and at the training ground.
“That was always going to be the case I think,” said the manager.
“Keith wants to be at Hartlepool, he’s really enjoyed his time here.
“The lads have really taken to him. He’s a very good player and he is also a good person to have around the place.
“We’re glad he’s with us.
“It’s the early stages of his re-hab and we’re pleased he’s doing it where he has become a key member of our squad, on and off the pitch.
“Keith has become an integral member of the club, not just how he’s performed as a player, but he’s part of the whole dynamic here.”
Watson is making a steady recovery, with Harrison hoping he will continue to make progress and not need any surgery.
“Everything is positive with Keith,” he said.
“He’s been away with Jake [Cassidy] on the zero-gravity treadmill, and he’ll work hard and move onto weight-bearing status and go back to the specialist again.
“Hopefully the specialist will decide he won’t need an op and it will just be a normal healing process.”
On a more immediate matter, Harrison is hoping to have both Carl Magnay and Liam Donnelly available for Saturday’s National League match with Sutton at Victoria Park.
Magnay was ruled out with a stomach muscle strain at South Shields on Saturday, while Donnelly, who was due to replace him, was withdrawn just before kick-off after suffering a back spasm.