BURTON Albion skipper John McGrath will end an eight-month injury nightmare this afternoon when he makes his long-awaited return to competitive action following foot surgery.
The 32-year-old will play for Albion’s reserves when they travel to take on Shrewsbury Town’s second string, kick-off 2pm, having not played since picking up the injury in a 2-0 defeat at Swindon Town at the end of February.
The combative midfielder underwent major foot surgery in March and found himself sat on the sidelines sporting a protective boot as the Brewers kicked off the 2012/13 season.
However, he returned to full training earlier this month and will today step up his bid to break back into the first-team fold.
Brewers boss Gary Rowett said: “Macca will play against Shrewsbury and it will be brilliant to have him back.
“He has been training for a while, but until he gets back playing games we will not be fully sure how the injury is coming along.
“We will try and get him an hour and if he can do that it will be great, and we’ll see how he feels afterwards.”
The Brewers boss said the enforced lay-off had left McGrath frustrated and that he had been forced to hold him back, but says this afternoon’s game represents the next big step in his recovery.
“Everyone finds it difficult when they are out injured, but especially someone who lives for Saturdays like Macca does,” said Rowett.
“But he has taken it on the chin and he has worked really hard.
“I think the most frustrating time for him was when he couldn’t do anything. He has been able to train for while and I’m sure he is delighted to be back involved.
“We have had to hold him back a bit. A couple of weeks ago he came back and
Continued on Page 30
did a full session and we had to take him out of the next couple.
“It is fantastic for us that he will be involved against Shrewsbury and it will hopefully see him take a big step forward.”
However, Rowett guarded against the midfielder making a swift return to first-team action even if he comes through unscathed this afternoon.
The Brewers boss said: “He is not technically speaking fully fit until he has got through a couple of games and it would be wrong to think he will be back in the first-team picture if he comes through this game.
“I would say it would be the second step of about four or five for him.”
In a triple boost for Rowett, central defender Marus Holness and midfielder Chris Palmer are also pencilled in to feature against Shrewsbury.
Holness, signed in the summer from Rochdale, has not played since picking up a hamstring injury in the 3-1 home victory over York City on September 19.
Palmer, meanwhile, has seen his return from an Achilles’ tendon injury picked up in the 1-0 victory at Rochdale on September 8 delayed by a calf problem.
Said Rowett: “It will be brilliant to have all three of them back as we have been slightly low on numbers.”
However, winger Jimmy Phillips remains sidelined having broken a metatarsal in pre-season, while defender Aaron Webster misses out due to a hamstring problem.
ALBION have confirmed that winger Luke Rooney and central defender Robbie Kiernan have returned to Swindon Town and Wigan Athletic respectively following their month-long loan spells at the Pirelli Stadium.