Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has provided an update, via The Daily Echo, on absent defender Ryan Bertrand, whom he says is still on the comeback trail.
Well, the man who skippered the club when Mark Hughes was manager has been on the sidelines ever since the Welshman was sacked and succeeded by Hasenhuttl, thanks to a back problem.
The Daily Echo report that the 29-year-old was initially supposed to be absent for a maximum of a fortnight back towards the beginning of December, but he is still yet to feature in the first-team squad having missed 16 successive fixtures.
It is certainly confusing given the England international has also been back in full training for two weeks now, and is surely considered as one of the club’s best players given the experience and quality that he has in his locker.
In quotes per The Daily Echo, Hasenhuttl said: “On this part he has to work because he was long out and it’s normal that if you start again training with the team it takes time until you are at the level where you can play 90 minutes.
“It doesn’t make sense to bring any player on the bench if he is unable to play 90 minutes in the moment.”
While they are understandable in many ways, in others you can’t help but speculate that there is a deeper issue here – especially as Matt Targett hasn’t been an overwhelming success in the left wing-back role that Bertrand is ideally suited to.
For the former Chelsea man’s comeback to have been repeatedly put back is more than suspicious, and while it is important that the 29-year-old is 100% ready to make an impact, the fact that Hasenhuttl isn’t even ready to include a player of his proven quality on the bench if he isn’t able to play 90 minutes is strange.
Whether the England man has actually fallen out with the Austrian or has another injury issue remains to be seen, but if he fails to make the 18 against Cardiff City at St Mary’s on Saturday then the alarm bells will be ringing slightly louder.
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