Bradford City goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell ahead of schedule in return from thigh injury
The Bantams captain and goalkeeper tore a thigh muscle at the end of December and was expected to be out for up to 12 weeks but he is already back in training.
Saturday's League Two visit of Salford City will come too soon for him, but like Rhys Staunton – another yet to play in 2021 – the end is in sight.
“Richard has made a really good recovery – before we thought, to be fair,” explained joint interim manager Conor Sellars.
“He's doing a full week's training having done the back end of last week and doing well.
“It's in our interests to protect Rich. He's had a tear so we need to look after him and make sure we're not bringing him in too early.”
Rhys Staunton, Leeds United loanee Bryce Hosannah and O'Donnell's vice-captain Lee Novak have also been out lately.
“The closest one is Rhys,” said Sellars. “He's back to full training.
“He came in light training and didn't have any reaction to his previous injury so he's been given the green light to return to full training. It's a little bit similar to any player who's had a tear in their muscles, it's about bringing them back up to speed and not too early. We'll just keep monitoring Rhys to make sure the risk of that injury re-occurring is low.
“We've got Lee and Bryce, who is looking a little bit closer than Lee at the minute, and with games called off it gives them an opportunity to get fit and be in contention.”
Danny Rowe could make a more immediate return against Salford. The January signing missed the trip to Scunthorpe United through illness but he was the lucky one, with those who travelled forced to abandon the game in heavy snow midway through a goalless first half.
“For Danny it's worked in his favour the game being off against Scunthorpe,” said Sellars. “The more days he's in the building and training, the better opportunity to be in the squad.”
Billy Clarke, though, is unlikely to feature, another one the Bantams will wisely take a softly-softly approach with.
“He's been out there running today (Thursday) but it's probably just a bit too soon for him,” explained Sellars. “We're just assessing and monitoring him.”
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