Dundee United are set to welcome back the best midfielder in the Championship over several seasons.
That is the view of Tangerines boss Jim Goodwin as club captain Ross Docherty prepares to return to the match-day squad.
Docherty, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Tuesday, has resumed full training following a six-week absence with a calf injury. A luckless campaign has also seen him struck down with hamstring and groin issues.
However, Goodwin hopes those woes are a thing of the past and – while unsure whether to pitch Docherty straight into the starting line-up to face Dunfermline – his availability is eagerly anticipated.
“I brought Doc to this club because I believe he’s been the most consistent – probably the best – midfielder in the Championship for a number of years,” lauded Goodwin.
“He’s been a huge loss. It’s been a difficult first half of the season for Doc and very unusual for him. If you look back at his last three or four seasons, he has always been a mainstay.
“But he feels that he’s over that period and the medical team deserve credit for working hard on him. We’ve been very careful with him over the last couple of weeks and are looking forward to getting him back involved.”
Goodwin added: “That’s one of the decisions we need to make this Saturday; throw him in at the start? Or just have him as part of the squad?”
Goodwin: United squad is “much healthier”
Docherty’s return is one of several positives following a well-timed two-week hiatus – albeit United would rather have been on Scottish Cup duty.
Louis Moult is back in action, Archie Meekison has another fortnight of training in his legs, Craig Sibbald returns from suspension, and David Wotherspoon and Alex Greive have been afforded time to settle.
“The last week-to-10 days has given us a good opportunity to get those injured ones back on the grass and training with the group,” continued Goodwin. “The squad looks a lot healthier.
“I still think we can improve if we can keep the squad fit. That’s been our biggest problem this season; we’ve gone long periods without key players.
“When we have a strong and fit team, we’ve got the best squad in the league, as far as I’m concerned.”
More of the same
A packed schedule will see him field questions from the Dundee United Supporters Group on next Tuesday, take his place at the Terrors’ AGM two days later and be present for the remaining days of the transfer window.
“The owner understands where we’re at as a squad,” Goodwin added. “He’s delighted with the performance of the team up to now.
“It’ll be nice to see him in person. It always is. He enjoyed his time when he was over last and enjoyed some good results. Hopefully, we can do the same this time around.”