GARY Rowett says his Burton Albion team will be utilised in full over the busy Christmas period, and hopes to welcome Rory Delap back into the squad today.
The veteran utility player joined the Brewers in something of a summer coup after being released by Premier League side Stoke City, and started the first six league games of the season.
He has not featured since the 2-0 defeat to Oxford United at the start of September, but played 60 minutes in a behind-closed-doors match against Burnley earlier this week.
Rowett said: “He (Delap) hasn’t done too much this week, and he has a slightly different training schedule to the other players.
“We’re not pushing him too much, but he could come into contention this weekend.”
Delap was primarily used at right-back when fit, a position which Phil Edwards has made his own in his team-mate’s absence – and Rowett said that any returning player would have to work hard to get back into the starting XI.
“Phil has shown the strength we have in our squad,” said the Pirelli boss.
“He was in and out for the first four or five games, but has done well in Rory’s absence and we’ve got a nice balance at the moment.
“It would be difficult for anyone to come in when the team is winning, but we can never have enough good players.
“It makes my job harder, but I will look forward to having that option.
“Whether it’s an experienced player like Rory or Michael Symes (who also returned to training this week), or a young player like Dominic Knowles, to have that option is great for the squad.”
With 24 games gone in the season, a few players have drifted towards the periphery of the Albion team.
Zander Diamond has started just one of the last 12 games, Adam Reed has not played in 14, Marcus Holness not since his sending-off 13 games ago, and Jack Dyer has made just two substitute appearances in the last 16 games.
But Rowett said: “Every single player in the squad will have a part to play over Christmas.
“People think we’ve got a big squad, but we only run with about 22 players, and that is when everyone’s fit.
“If we pick up four or five injuries, it’s going to dig into the squad.
“This will be the first stage of the season when our strength in depth has really been tested, and if we’re still winning games at the end of it, then that would be great.
“Some players have not made the 18 for various reasons, but that’s how squads work.
“I haven’t got anyone in the squad who I don’t want to be there, and everyone has the opportunity to get back into the team.
“There are certain values I expect from players and my door is always open if players do the right thing.”