Billy Paynter has cleared the first hurdle of his Hartlepool United comeback and is counting down the days to a League Two return.
Paynter had not been due back until February but such was his rapid recovery from an Achilles injury, he was playing again yesterday – and scoring – in the 4-0 reserve-team win over Rotherham United.
It’s up to the manager when he wants me to come backBILLY PAYNTER
The 31-year-old may have to show patience before regaining his place in the first team – he is unlikely to feature in Saturday’s trip to Cambridge United.
“It’s just great to be back playing, getting to run about and kick and head the ball again,” he told SportMail.
“It has been frustrating watching games – I would rather be out there helping the lads.
“I’ve only been training fully for three or four days – I trained Friday and then joined in with the lads in the warm-up on Saturday before the Wycombe game.
“But it was good just being out there again in a game yesterday.
“I’ve been working hard in the gym, doing all the exercises, and then it was fantastic to get the all-clear that it had healed.
“Now it’s about strengthening that area, training hard and then it’s up to the manager when he wants me to come back.”
If he comes through next Tuesday’s reserve team match at Notts County there is a chance he could return to the squad for the home game with Exeter a week on Saturday.
A realistic target would appear to be the League Two trip to Notts County on Saturday, February 6, which kicks off a hectic month for Pools with six games and then seven in March.
“It’s going to be a busy period for the team, a lot of Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday weeks,” said the club captain.
“I think there will be a bit of chopping and changing and players will be getting taken out to try to avoid more injuries.
Manager Ronnie Moore will be heavily governed by the advice of head physio Ian Gallagher, who has worked wonders with Paynter and previously, Michael Woods.
And Paynter paid tribute to the healing hands and wise counsel of the former Pools-player-turned physio.
“Buster has been brilliant,” said the striker. “I’ve been itching to get back sooner, but he’s been pulling on the reins and telling me to bide my time.
“I’ve listened to him, a bit anyway!”
Gallagher insisted on Paynter playing no more than an hour yesterday and sure enough, the number nine board was held up after 60 minutes.
“I would like to have played longer and I felt OK when I was brought off,” said the chirpy Scouser. “But I might have been moving like the tin man now if I stayed on.
“An hour was probably the right amount.”
Paynter was happy to find the net on his return, though it was not quite the spectacular strike he described.
“I was pleased with my goal, a 30-yard screamer, gave the keeper no chance!” laughed Paynter whose routine close-range finish gave Pools the second of four goals against the Millers.
“Seriously, it was just nice to get some game-time and now I’ll just take it from there.”