Craig Harrison says it is great to have Nicky Featherstone back in the mix at Hartlepool United.
The midfielder is currently working his way towards match fitness after recovering from a hernia operation at the end of last season.
He was carrying that injury for three or four months last season but he didn’t want to have an operation in seasonCRAIG HARRISON
Featherstone had been troubled throughout the relegation fight but, as skipper, played through the discomfort to try to help Pools stay up.
But the 29-year-old finally went under the knife in May just days after Pools failed in their great escape bid.
It meant Featherstone made a delayed entrance to the pre-season programme as he regained full fitness.
After missing the wins at Billingham Town and Dunston UTS, he was in the XI which started in the 2-1 defeat at Harrogate, where he came off at half-time.
Featherstone was not included for the big friendly against Sunderland, though he did play almost half an hour at St Johnstone, where there were signs he is getting back into his stride.
“Last week, we substituted game-time for Nicky with a full week’s training.
“Obviously, when you have a mid-week game then the day before the match you do less work and the day after, the workload is reduced as well.
“So Nicky had five good days training and he had 30 minutes at St Johnstone at a good tempo.
“He’s getting there.
“It’s been a frustrating one for Nicky, he was carrying that injury for three or four months last season but he didn’t want to have an operation in season.
“He wanted to play to help the club so he delayed the surgery.
“We’ve had to be patient with him and be careful to not push him too hard and too early.
“The last thing we want is him breaking down.
“There is no doubting his talent.”
Featherstone will be involved in one of this weekend’s friendlies, at home to Middlesbrough U23 on Friday evening or at Whitley Bay on Saturday.
Last season’s skipper you would have to say would be an outside bet to start the National League campaign, purely to the fact of a lack of minutes in the friendly programme.
However, with seven league matches in the first month of the 2017-18 calendar, it is a safe assumption that he will feature.
Competition will be strong in the central area, where Harrison has added Conor Newton to a group which includes existing players, Michael Woods and Lewis Hawkins.
But when Featherstone is fit and on his game there is no-one in the squad who will make the team tick as he does.
So, unless he is sold then the former Hull, Hereford and Walsall midfielder will prove a crucial figure in the squad.