BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Injuries have never been far away from Roy Hodgson as Crystal Palace boss, and he started this new season without a complete back four thanks to the long-term injuries of Gary Cahill, Patrick Van Aanholt and James Tomkins, plus new signing Nathan Ferguson, which have prevented them from training fully.
Speaking earlier today, the Palace boss, now in his fourth season in SE25, gave an update on the missing defensive players.
“They’ve been running today; they’re out on the pitch again now and they’re running, but, of course, their running is being quite strictly controlled by the rehabilitation people and by the physios and the sports scientists,” said Hodgson to the South London Press about Cahill, Van Aanholt and Tomkins who have now joined Ferguson in a separate rehabilitation group away from the main squad at the Beckenham training ground.
“The updates I get is that they’re making good progress but, of course, all of them are still within that time limit; we expected them to be out until a certain period of time with that level of injury. They still haven’t reached that point yet that we’re expecting that the injury has now passed, but they’re making very, very good progress – it’s good to see them all out on the field of play.
“I would say that Gary Cahill, in particular, is well in advance of the most negative prediction for his return, and the other two are pretty much on line with where the physios expect them to be, so I’m hoping that it maybe won’t be that much longer before they re-join us, as well as Mamadou Sakho who did so at the end of last week.”
With Sakho returning to action for 30 minutes against Bournemouth in the League Cup on Tuesday, and Christian Benteke taking part in full training for the first time today after suffering a broken bone in his foot, Hodgson is well-aware that their match fitness will still take some time to return as the Eagles and he ruled both out of the Manchester United clash at Old Trafford on Saturday.
“No, you can’t get players back in training for one day after they have missed literally months of football and haven’t played one competitive minute,” said Hodgson when asked if either could be involved on Saturday.
“We’re talking about a highly-competitive game and players who are going to need to show through a consistent period of training, and hopefully, through having played some minutes of football in a competitive environment, that they’re ready. I’m afraid that one or two training sessions doesn’t do that for you but at least it’s the first step along the way.
“Sakho’s trained with the group three times, including today, and played 30 minutes in a game and Christian Benteke has [also] trained today with the group. We’ll see how he comes through tomorrow’s session. If he’s still showing no signs of problems, we might be able to get him some minutes in the U23 game on Monday and from there you start building things up.
“And then people like Connor Wickham and Luke Dreher joined in the very first part (of training), which is pretty much non-contact, just to get back in the fold, but again, they aren’t in a position to seriously train and do everything we do as a group in training as yet.
“We hope also that Jairo Riedewald will train with the first team tomorrow, he didn’t train with the first team today. He’s recovering from the injury he picked up at the end of last week.
“We still have a lot of players that are technically back in the fold but they still have a lot to do before I or they believe they are ready to play 90 minutes of Premier League football, but in terms of fitness of players we’re in a much healthier position than we have been in for a long time, but there’s still plenty of players at the moment who are unfit and plenty of other players who haven’t had much chance of playing competitive football.”
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