Jack Ross admits that Andrew Nelson's injury meant he missed out on a chance to make his first team breakthrough.
The 21-year-old began pre-season in the first team set up but picked up an injury that Ross says the medical staff 'had never seen before'.
Nelson this week made his comeback by playing 20 minutes for the U23s, and he will step up his recovery by playing alongside Duncan Watmore when Middlesbrough visit Hetton on Monday.
The foot problem that curtailed Nelson's pre-season was not the first injury he has had to battle through.
Whilst on loan at Falkirk last season he suffered a fractured cheekbone and during his first loan spell at Hartlepool in 2017 he suffered knee ligament damage.
Ross says it has been a boost for the striker to be involved with the first team this week.
"The way things worked out for us in forward areas, he would probably have had opportunities," Ross said.
"Whether he would have taken them we can’t say for certain but he would have had them.
"It was a horrible injury he got, really troublesome one, one that the medical staff had never seen before.
"So that wasn’t nice for him, particularly having fractured his face towards the end of last season.
"He’s a new lad Andrew, it’s good for him to be back involved.
"I’ve had him over training with me a couple of times, we’ll build him in the U23s, I’d imagine he’ll play on Monday as well."
Nelson is another who could secure a loan move in January, with Ross adamant that he needs to be playing games.
His return to fitness gives Ross and the player a chance to assess their options.
The striker will not be short of suitors, both north of the border and in the Football League.
"He had the loan spell at Falkirk and he needs to be playing games. He knows that," Ross said.
"He’s done his bit in U23s football and he needs to be around a first team somewhere.
"The good thing is he’s fit now, so that gives us a bit of time to make that decision rather than him just getting fit in January.
"He was one that James and I actually knew quite well anyway because he came up and trained with us when we were at St Mirren.
"We considered bringing him in on loan at that point, I think he was still about 18 at the time.
"We were in relegation trouble and it didn’t feel quite right, for him as well," Ross added.
"The loan move was good for him, he enjoyed it, they liked him, they’d have taken him back as well if he hadn’t picked up the injury and if we thought it had been the right fit.
"I’m just pleased for him personally as it’s been a hard few months for him."