Dave Jones will “be more than happy” to see Nathan Thomas back tearing around the park and banging in goals.
But the new manager says he will not take any risks with Hartlepool United’s fit-again star.
The gifted attacker made a surprise and welcome comeback in last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Stevenage.
Thomas, back after a groin injury, has spent the early part of the week at Maiden Castle in the treatment room, though not with the same problem which put him out for two and a half months.
But with a large chunk of the season still to go, Jones says he does not want to gamble with the fitness of Thomas, or any other player.
“The problem with Nathan is that he’s been out a long time, so his body’s out of balance,” said Jones.
“All of a sudden, you feel something else that you didn’t have because you’ve not been working that part.
“We’ll see how he is, I’m sure there will be battles between me, the player and physio about who’s fit and who’s right.
“But, at the end of the day, I know it will be the right decision whether he’s ready or not [to play].
“The last thing you want to do is put someone on the pitch who is carrying something and risk putting them out for longer.”
Thomas has been a seriously big miss for Pools, who have not looked the same without him.
Jones can’t wait to get a proper look at him, having tried to get him in another blue and white shirt three years ago when he was manager at Sheffield Wednesday and the then teenager was with Sunderland.
“I’ve not seen him yet, he’s been in the medical room!” he said.
“I tried to sign him at Sheffield Wednesday but I left the week we were ready to sign him.
“He’s got good ability and while he was very raw, I saw something I felt we could build on.
“I never got that opportunity and he had a few clubs since then.
“But he’s come here and scored goals and if I see that form, I’ll be more than happy.”
However, Jones says that the thought of having such a talent available again should not cloud selection judgements.
“You may have to suffer without him for a game to get him for the rest of the season,” said the manager.
“It’s being brave to do it [leave a star player out].
“Sometimes, you might think ‘I can’t do without people’, yes you can, you are giving someone else the opportunity to stake a claim.
“Look at last Saturday, Billy [Paynter] was [going to be] in the team, came in injured and that gave someone else a chance and the player took it.
“Now Billy knows he has a fight on his hands because someone has slotted it, what a healthy position to be in.
“People ask are you down because such and such is out? No, never. Do I worry making decisions? No, never.”
On the subject of Paynter, the skipper is a doubt with Achilles trouble.
“Billy has a slim chance, but I’d doubt it,” added Jones.
Given conditions are expected to be heavy at Rodney Parade, the boss is unlikely to risk either front man.