Hartlepool United star Nathan Thomas dilemma for new boss Dave Jones

Nathan Thomas: Back in squad after injury
Nathan Thomas: Back in squad after injury

New boss Dave Jones may not risk Nathan Thomas at Newport County on Saturday.

The highly-rated attacking ace returned for Hartlepool United in last Saturday's 2-0 win over Stevenage, coming on as a late sub.

But the 22-year-old, back after a groin injury, has spent the early part of the week at Maiden Castle in the treatment room, though not with the same problem which put him out for two and a half months.

With a large chunk of the season still to go, Jones says he does not want to gamble with the fitness of Thomas, or any other player.

"The problem with Nathan is that he's been out a long time, so his body's out of balance," said Jones.

"All of a sudden you feel something else that you didn't have because you've not been working that part.

"We'll see how he is, I'm sure there will be battles between me, the player and physio about who's fit and who's right.

"But at the end of the day I know it will be the right decision whether he's ready or not [to play].

"The last thing you want to do is put someone on the pitch who is carrying something and risk putting them out for longer."

Thomas has been a seriously big miss for Pools, who have not looked the same without him.

However, Jones says that the thought of having such a talent available again should not cloud selection judgements.

"You may have to suffer without him for a game to get him for the rest of the season," said the manager.

"It's being brave to do it [leave a star player out].

"Sometimes, you might think 'I can't do without people', yes you can, you are giving someone else the opportunity to stake a claim.

"Look at last Saturday, Billy [Paynter] was [going to be] in the team, came in injured and that gave someone else a chance and the player took it.

"Now Billy knows he has a fight on his hands because someone has slotted it, what a healthy position to be in.

"People ask are you down because such and such is out? No, never. Do I worry making decisions? No, never."

On the subject of Paynter, the skipper is a doubt with an Achiiles problem.

"Billy has a slim chance, but I'd doubt it," added Jones.

Jones, assistant Kevin Cooper, coach Alex Armstrong and development coach Sam Collins put the players through their paces at Maiden Castle today.

Former Newcastle, Sunderland, Cardiff and Ipswich striker Michael Chopra was again training with the squad as the 33-year-old Geordie keeps himself fit following the end of the league season in India, where he has been playing with Kerala Blasters.