Dave Jones can’t wait to get to see the real Nathan Thomas.
The fit-again Hartlepool United attacker is close to a return to the starting XI and could feature today at former club Mansfield.
Thomas joined Pools in the 2016 January transfer window from Field Mill, where he had made intermittent appearances.
However, Ronnie Moore and Craig Hignett both made him an integral member of their team and how the Teessider responded.
Thomas was stunning in the amazing spring run by Hignett’s side who went from relegation candidates to mid-table safety in a matter of weeks.
The former Sunderland winger rattled off one goal of the season contender after another and he carried that into this campaign too.
Thomas had scored seven times, including ‘worldies’ in the wins at Yeovil and Grimsby, and was in amazing touch until injuring his groin at Barnet on the final Saturday of October.
After three months out, the 22-year-old is back, having made late sub appearances against Stevenage and Yeovil.
Looking somewhat rusty, the Pools management gave him an hour of Tuesday’s Central League win over Mansfield.
Jones, who tried to sign Thomas when he was manager of Sheffield Wednesday, is looking forward to getting to pick and watch the gifted left-footer who can terrorise League Two.
“Nathan played in midweek for the reserves,” said Jones.
“He has to get back to what he was doing before – by all accounts he was playing well and scoring goals, but I didn’t see that.
“It’s now down to Nathan to make sure he’s put all he has got into getting fit.
“Sometimes the onus is on the players rather than the coach.
“Is he close to fitness? Yes, because he’s training with us and playing games.
“Now it’s up to him to show the staff and players he is up to a level we know he is capable of producing.
“If he does that we will all be happy.”
Jones reiterated his view that he will not bring players back from injury unless they are 100% “right”.
But he added that if they have to be fit to start, he does not believe in having semi-fit players to bring off the bench.
“Nathan is back from three months out, it’s not a vast amount of time in the football world,” said the manager.
“The problem is after an injury you start to use other muscles you weren’t and you have to be careful not to pull something else.
“A one-off game, a cup final or the like, and they could play.
“But why risk them if they are going to miss another month or two through injury on the back of it?
“The culture of the club now is that if they are fit and we feel they are ready – and it’s not good sitting on the bench in the hope they give us this or that – they have to be fit to play
“The mentality is that I always have had is that no matter how good the player he has to be right.
“A one-off game, a cup final or the like, and they could play, but why risk them if they are going to miss another month or two through injury on the back of it?”