Keith Curle has promised fans there is no grand conspiracy behind John-Joe O’Toole’s recent absence from matchday squads, explaining in detail why the midfielder has had to sit out the last four matches.
Curle first raised alarm bells when he described O’Toole as ‘not available’ for Town’s trip to Crawley Town earlier this month before it emerged he missed out through injury.
Everybody at Northampton Town knows John-Joe will bite the bullet as and when he can. He’ll still be in pain and he’ll still be in discomfort but he’s as eager as we are to get him back.
The problem, bruising on his foot, was initially picked up against Lincoln City in the FA Cup but it was not until last month’s league game at Newport County when the 30-year-old ‘bit the bullet’ and decided he was not able to perform to his best, withdrawn at half-time.
A month on and O’Toole still hasn’t returned to action, but after Saturday’s draw with Yeovil Town, Curle explained the situation in detail and revealed the fans’ favourite could return at some point during the festive period.
“He’s injured,” confirmed the Town boss. “There’s no conspiracy theories. We haven’t had a fall-out, he hasn’t gone missing, he hasn’t been arrested and he hasn’t been kidnapped.
“He’s going through his return to training protocol which is commonplace for all players here and I can only apologise that there’s not a conspiracy!
“When he’s been fit, JJ has always been involved in the squad and he’s a key member but, unfortunately, he took a knock against Lincoln.
“He was able to play for a couple of games through the pain barrier but it was getting progressively worse and he played 45 minutes against Newport and knew he wasn’t doing himself any favours.
“He couldn’t play the game how he wanted to play it so we’ve done X-rays and scans and the problem has been identified so now it’s just a case of getting him back.
“He’s been back on the grass in the last two days and it’s a steady progression before he’s available again. He has some bruising on his foot and it’s one of those things where he won’t be free from pain for a while and he’ll get used to it and then have to bite the bullet and get through it.
“Everybody at Northampton Town knows John-Joe will bite the bullet as and when he can. He’ll still be in pain and he’ll still be in discomfort but he’s as eager as we are to get him back on the training ground.”
Fellow midfielder Matt Crooks, back from his own injury problems, made his first start since early November at Huish Park on Saturday but only lasted 67 minutes, replaced by Andy Williams.
“He took a knock in the first-half and it’s one of those - because of the game-time and the injury he’s had, it’s just a little bit of prevention and also a bit tactical,” said Curle.
“We changed the shape and got the two out-and-out centre forwards on the pitch, but he only a took a slight knock and he got a clean bill of health from Nacho (the physio) at the moment.”
Curle was also asked about the recent omissions of on-loan goalkeeper Lewis Ward and young defender Hakeem Odoffin from matchday squads.
He continued: “The headlines should be about the 18 players that made the squad. If there are additions to the squad next month, there’ll be more players not in the squad.
“So I think it’s important to focus on the players that have been selected in the starting XI and the players on the bench. When I select the team and when I pick the substitutions, it’s based on the game on a Saturday.
“Sometimes it’s technical, sometimes it’s tactical and sometimes it’s about where the players are in their development.”