Hartlepool United considering extending Keith Watson loan as St Johnstone defender ‘ahead of schedule’ to return

Keith Watson.
Keith Watson.

Hartlepool United are yet to decide whether to extend the loan of defender Keith Watson.

But the St Johnstone loanee is ahead of schedule in his bid to return from a knee problem which has seen him miss more than two months of action.

And, as a result, the next four weeks could be make or break for the 28-year-old’s Pools future.

Watson suffered a knee injury in the closing stages of the away day win at Leyton Orient back in September.

At the time it was widely expected the player would immediately return north of the border to McDiarmid Park to complete his rehab, having been told he’d likely be out beyond the end of the his loan spell.

But in a significant step, he chose to remain at the Racecourse, to recover under the tutelage of medical staff at Pools.

In that time he has not only been put through his paces at Pools, he’s also been allowed the use of training facilities at Championship outfit Sunderland’s Academy of Light, taking advantage of their anti-gravity treadmill, as well as doing some pool work.

And it appears to have paid dividends with the understanding that Watson, once described by former Scotland boss Craig Levein as the best young player he’d every worked with, is edging closer to a first-team return much sooner than had been initially expected.

Tentatively the club are hoping he may be fit enough to take part in training after the turn of the year, although given the nature of the injury and the player’s own medical history, they are also keen not to rush things.

But, should Watson prove he is fit enough to return in or around the January mark then an extension would be on the cards.

Although, at this stage, it is still too early to say either way.

Pools will wait and see how the player’s recovery pans out over the next month before entering into extension talks with his parent club.

The Mail understands Saints, who could be about to lose manager Tommy Wright to Northern Ireland top job, would not be against the idea of Watson remaining at Pools until the end of the current campaign.

Despite the Scottish Premiership side’s struggles this season, Watson is seen as surplus to requirements.

Should he return to Perth, where he his contract is up at the end of the campaign, his first-team chances would be severely limited.

Watson was nothing short of a revelation at the start of the National League campaign, and was seen by many Poolies as Harrison’s signing of what proved to be a very busy summer.

The former Dundee United and St Mirren man made six starts for Pools after signing initially on a six-month deal, scoring one goal in the 3-1 home win over Maidstone United on September 2.

Ryan Donaldson has also been using the Black Cats facilities in South Tyneside, and they played a massive part in the ahead of schedule return of Jake Cassidy.