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Knights newcomer Tom Carr a driving force in fitness fight for James Haynes
NEWCOMER Tom Carr’s eyecatching first display for York City Knights has left fellow full-back James Haynes chomping at the bit even more to get back to match action.
That was the view of boss Gary Thornton, who revealed that Haynes, facing a battle to reclaim his old number one shirt, was now ahead of schedule in his return to fitness – even being in the coaching staff’s thoughts for this weekend’s friendly against North Wales Crusaders.
Interestingly, he also suggested that, while Carr was probably ahead in the race for the full-back berth for the start of the Championship season on February 3, he could yet find a place for both aces in his starting XIII this year.
“Tom was exceptional on Sunday and I see no reason to move him when he’s playing well,” said Thornton, who could barely hide his delight when asked if the 21-year-old’s man-of-the-match performance in the Knights’ opening game of 2013, against York Select, had left Haynes with an even greater incentive to return as quickly as possible.
“I think it probably has,” he said. “Tom’s an exciting player. I actually see a lot of similarities with James. They’ve both got good footwork and they often beat the first defender when running the ball back.
“The good thing about both of them is there’s a bit of utility there.
“They can both play a bit, they both read the game, they handle the ball well. James can also play centre or wing, and I’ve seen Tom play stand-off a bit for Featherstone U23s.”
Haynes has been on a long road to recovery since undergoing surgery in August on a back/sciatic nerve problem that wiped out his 2012 campaign.
He had not been expected to don the shirt again until the very end of pre-season at the earliest, but has made such strides that a run-out against the Crusaders at Huntington Stadium on Sunday (3pm) was in view, depending on how he pulled through full contact training last night.
Thornton stressed he would not throw the 23-year-old into action if medical staff thought it risky but, either way, was delighted the fans’ favourite was ahead of schedule.
“We will assess how he is,” he said. “We’ve been thinking that if he was to get through (last night’s) training session, he could feature at some point (on Sunday).
“I’ve got to give great credit to James himself for getting into this position. He’s been doing great work with the physio and with his rehab stuff at home to speed up his recovery. The physios have done great as well. This shows his desire to get back playing.
“But we’ve got to make sure it’s the right time to play. You’ve got to bring them back when they’re right.
“Players’ welfare is very important, especially with the likes of James after major surgery on his back.”
Another player with an outside chance of returning to action this weekend is new prop Matty Nicholson, who has had a cortisone injection and has seen medical staff at the Knights’ new partnership club, Hull, in a bid to sort out a slight shoulder muscle tear.
Thornton added: “Sunday might be a bit too early but if comes through training he might get some game time.”