Santos a Doubt for Town
Thursday, 9th Oct 2003 13:45
Town boss Joe Royle is sweating on the fitness of central defender Georges Santos ahead of Saturday's trip to Bradford City. Santos limped out of Thursday training with a groin problem, adding to Town's lengthy injury list.
Royle is hopeful that the Frenchman will be fit enough for the Valley Parade game: “Big Georges has come off with a groin strain this morning. He's been playing and training with a slight groin strain anyway, so we're hoping it's not too bad. If he's not fit then we do start to have problems.”
Should the former Grimsby player fail to make it then Royle has virtually no other option than to hand Irish youngster Gerard Nash a first senior start. Nash, who toured with the first team in pre-season, is highly-rated at Town with his central defensive style compared to that of Liverpool legend Alan Hansen.
No decision on whether Santos will make it is likely to be made until closer to Saturday's game with Royle not yet sure whether Nash is ready for first team football: “As much as I'm delighted with Gerard's progress this year - and we've all seen how good he's going to be - whether or not he's ready right now is another thought. We'll have to wait and see.”
Royle continues to have numerous injury woes but will be glad that Chris Makin's thigh problem, which he aggravated in the reserves on Wednesday night, is not as bad as was originally feared.
The former Oldham, Marseille and Sunderland full-back could be back in training again next week. Fortunately the injury appears to have been muscle tiredness after his lay-off rather than a strain or tear.
Dutch midfielder Martijn Reuser is continuing strengthening exercises on his abdominal and groin muscles in order to avoid a hernia operation. Reuser has been out for most of the season with the groin injury but should know whether he needs surgery in the next couple of weeks.
Central defender John McGreal, unavailable all season so far with a back problem, has returned to training and is improving. He is expected to be available for the first team in November
Guinean international Drissa Diallo is working on strengthening his knee injury and is only a week or so away from training. Aidan Collins, yet another sidelined central defender, injured ankle ligaments in the reserves on Wednesday and will be out of action for a month.
Academy striker Sam Morrow, who made his senior debut against Notts County in the Carling Cup, is out of action with a thigh strain but will be OK by the end of the week when and will join up with the Northern Ireland U19s.
Better news for Royle is that Tommy Miller came through 45 minutes of the reserves match unscathed and has joined in with full training. However, he is still a little way off being available for the first team after his knee injury.
Royle says that striker Darren Bent is now not expected return from England U21 duty in Turkey: “We were due to find out yesterday. They were going to ring us and tell us if he had to come back - he'd slightly turned his ankle – but they haven't, so we assume he's stayed there which means he'll be OK and available for the game in Turkey on Friday.
“That's good news, or perhaps bad news because we could have done with him at the moment as we're running out of players.”
With so many players on the sidelines it is little surprise that the same 16 as faced Rotherham last week is likely to be named by the Town boss: “It'll be the same squad, there'll be no new additions, not at this stage anyway.
“We are getting pretty stretched. If you look at the reserves side from Wednesday night, with the exception of Westlake and Armstrong, it was mainly the U19s.”
Royle will be looking to avenge last year's defeat at Valley Parade: “They beat us last year in somewhat controversial circumstances when Big Hermann was sent off.
“We've generally reversed the trend this year and have beaten the sides around us in the table. We're in a good run, four wins in five, and we have a chance with few sides playing this weekend of going into the top half of the table. And that, after the doom and gloom of four weeks ago, would be terrific.”
Nicky Laws is sweating on striker Michael Branch who has a bruised right foot. Luke Cornwall replaced him at Reading last week and could remain in the Bantams' side and make his home debut if Branch doesn't make it.
The Bradford boss will also be hoping that midfielder Andy Gray will be over a virus which has also hit Law himself and skipper David Wetherall recently.
Veteran defender Peter Atherton has a long-term ankle injury while Dean Windass misses the game due to suspension after being sent off against Sheffield United recently. Keeper Mark Paston is away with the New Zealand international squad.
Saturday's referee will be Graham Laws from Whitley Bay who officiated in the Blues' glorious 2-0 victory at Carrow Road against Norwich City in March. So far this season he has shown 24 yellow and five red cards in eight games.
Likely squad: Davis, Price, Richards, Wilnis, Naylor, Santos, Nash, Magilton, Bart-Williams, Mahon, Wright, Westlake, Kuqi, Couñago, Bowditch, Armstrong.
Photo: Action Images
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