Keith Curle is still waiting for the ‘green light’ from physio Nacho Herrando to signal that key midfielder Matt Crooks is back fit and available for selection again ahead of this weekend’s trip to Crawley Town.
Curle revealed on Monday that Crooks was back in training and almost ready to return from a month out, but the 24-year-old remained absent from the squad that visited Cambridge United for Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy tie.
He’s desperate to play, desperate to be back involved and he’s working extremely hard. I need him available and I need him back on the pitch scoring goals.
Scorer of a superb first-half hat-trick at Macclesfield Town earlier in the season, Crooks’ guile and quality in the final third has been sorely missed by the Cobblers during his five weeks on the sidelines, and Curle is understandably eager to get him back.
Indeed, since the former Rangers man was forced off with an ankle problem shortly before half-time in last month’s clash with Crewe Alexandra, Town have tasted victory in just one of six matches in all competitions, failing to win any of their three league games during that time.
But Crooks has returned to training this week and could well travel down to West Sussex tomorrow, though Curle will rightly guard against taking any risks with his influential midfielder so close to the busy festive period.
“Matt is out and on the grass,” said the Town boss. “He’s participating in training and now it’s just a case of getting the green light from Nacho to say he’s available.
“He’s desperate to play, desperate to be back involved and he’s working extremely hard. A couple of the lads had a day off on the Wednesday but Matt was doing his extra work to give himself an opportunity to be available for selection.
“I did go in and say to Nacho that I need Matt Crooks. I need him available and I need him back on the pitch scoring goals.
“But there is a process that players go through and there are data and stats that we need the players physically to maintain prior to training because we don’t want players coming back and then breaking down again.
“We want them to come back in and hit the ground running because we want to play at an intensity and we want players to feel confident in their physicality so they can go and perform and make good decisions. A player that’s at full fitness makes better decisions.”
With Crooks the only doubt for Saturday’s League Two encounter, Town’s injury situation is looking far more promising now than when Curle first took over.
He added: “The treatment room is becoming less busy. Nacho is spending more and more time out on the training pitch with the players which is a sign that they’re getting closer to match pace.
“We train at a very good intensity and players need to be up to speed. We’re not advocates of players returning to fitness and just getting through training. We need players to be out there training at the same tempo as the rest of the lads.”