Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink admits he is facing something of a catch-22 situation regarding the fitness of John-Joe O’Toole and the rest and game-time the player needs.
The 29-year-old has proven himself to be the key man in the Town squad, with the team’s results and performances improving significantly when he is involved.
Is he fully fit? No. He’s still playing with pain but we need John-Joe because he gives us that presenceCobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Unfortunately for Hasselbaink, he has been starved of the player’s services for long spells of this season, with the midfielder first recovering from a groin operation, and then suffering a couple of ankle injuries.
The former Bristol Rovers man is currently playing through the pain barrier, as he is suffering with a bruised ankle that Hasselbaink conceded is causing the player problems.
But the conundrum the Town boss faces is that he needs the player out on the pitch, and not just because of the impact he has on the team, but also because O’Toole needs game time to build up his fitness and sharpness.
He has made just 12 appearances this campaign, having endured a disrupted pre-season due to his groin problems.
O’Toole started in the pre-Christmas matches against Walsall and Blackburn Rovers, and was selected again in the Boxing Day defeat at Doncaster.
But like the majority if his team-mates he struggled and was taken off after 56 minutes, but Hasselbaink admits he is set to be utilised again this Saturday as the Cobblers travel to Portsmouth for a crucial Sky Bet League One clash.
“John-Joe is always going to be a risk to play him Saturday, Tuesday and Saturday but at the moment we need him,” said the Cobblers boss.
“Is he fully fit? No. He’s still playing with pain but we need John-Joe because he gives us that presence.
“Was he the John-Joe we wanted to see on Tuesday? No, by far.
“But if I didn’t play him, I’ll be asked why he’s not playing so it’s one of those things.
“With John-Joe we are a stronger side and looking back I stick by that decision, I would have done that especially with how we were in the last two games and how important he was.”
And he went on to explain how fit the player currently is.
“I’m not saying he is 80 per cent fit at the moment, I’m just saying he is playing with pain,” said Hasselbaink .
“And let’s not forget he’s coming back from a big groin injury and then he had an ankle problem.
“So in terms of match fitness he’s not where he can be but you only get match fit by playing matches and he’s going to have these kind of matches. John-Joe is a very important player for this team.”