George Johnston is continuing to step up his rehabilitation as boss Ian Evatt delivers a positive up-date on the defender’s comeback plans, writes Pete Oliver.
Johnston has been sidelined since suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage to his left knee in a pre-season friendly at the start of July.
The 25-year-old – just seven appearances short of 100 for Wanderers – was expected to miss the whole of the 2023/24 campaign following successful surgery to rectify the problem.
And while there has been no timetable put on a possible return, Johnston is progressing well in his combination of training and treatment at Lostock.
“George is doing well and I’m pleased for him. He’s back on the grass doing some light running again which is fabulous,” Evatt told Wanderers TV. “He's determined to get back this season. If you ask (Head Physio) Matt Barrass about that, he starts putting his head in his hands!
“It is a long job but I think he's pretty much over the worst of it now. He’s back active again, doing full gym sessions and back starting to run and get his gait pattern back again, which is really important for him.
“He is starting to see light again at the end of the tunnel which is fantastic. I think the only person putting pressure on George is George himself.
“That's the type of guy he is and that's the winner he is. He wants to be back as soon as he can but he'll get all the right information and all the right care to make sure that when he does return he's better than ever.”
Johnston is currently the only member of Evatt’s first-team squad under the permanent care of the physios, with Randell Williams back in full training after missing two games with tendinopathy and Zac Ashworth also available for Saturday’s FA Cup second-round tie at home to Harrogate Town.
Wanderers then face Port Vale in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy next Tuesday night before resuming their League One campaign with a top-of-the-table clash at Portsmouth on Monday-week.
Evatt may therefore utilise his squad strength as the Whites look to keep competing on three fronts.
“We always try to plan in advance if we can because we know we have got a busy schedule to come,” added the Wanderers’ boss.
“The players are fully bought in to how we do things and they understand that if they are rotated it's nothing personal it's just what's right for this game.
“I’ve got 20-odd players who are all capable of performing to a similar standard. There's no drop-off if I decide to make changes. Everyone knows their roles and responsibilities and what's expected of them so whatever team I pick on Saturday, hopefully it will be good enough to win that game.”