Nathan Thomas is getting there at Hartlepool United – and that is going to be vital to a team fighting for survival.
The attacking talent is starting to show signs of the gifts which made him one of League Two’s hottest stars in 2016, until injury struck.
He knows he’s got to be better and stronger, when he does that we’ll see another side to NathanDAVE JONES
Thomas has started the last three games for Pools and is making strides in terms of fitness and sharpness, he also had an assist in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Plymouth.
When he returned last month he looked rusty, as you would expect from a player missing for three months following groin surgery. Boss Dave Jones is encouraged by the progress made but is looking for more from the 22-year-old.
“He’s getting fitter,” said Jones. “You could see after the game the sweat, the heavy breathing, he had put a shift in.
“He knows he’s got to be better and stronger.
“When he does that we’ll see another side to Nathan and if he listens to what we are trying to teach him then we’ll see a different Nathan again.”
Thomas was a sensation following his January 2016 transfer window move from Mansfield Town.
An inspired signing by then-boss Ronnie Moore, his best form came under Craig Hignett at the end of last season and the opening months of this campaign.
He netted five times for Pools last time around, including a succession of goal of the season spectaculars, not to mention numerous assists.
It got even better for the former Sunderland youngster this term, reeling off seven goals, including a couple of favourites for goal of the season.
Alas, a serious groin injury has interrupted his flow but he’s getting back up to speed now.
And Jones, who tried to sign a teenage Thomas when he was boss at Sheffield Wednesday, has said that Thomas must produce his skills inside the team structure.
“Certain parts of his game now are probably a bit more of a controlled environment for him,” said the manager.
“He’s there to do a job and if he does that he will get better and better.
“It’s not just about being all out on your own, doing your own thing in today’s game.
“It has to be controlled, it has to be within a system, if players do that, as we did for long periods of the game, you are able to shut the opposition down, like we did at Luton and against Plymouth.
“If we do that, we’ll get stronger and stronger, as will Nathan and will every other player.”
Pools have a big assignment this Saturday at Colchester where they may need a point to stay out of the bottom two.
Jones’s side dropped to 22nd at the weekend despite the draw with Plymouth as other results went against them.