Graham Barrow admits he’s had to wrap Wigan Athletic’s man-of-the-moment Nick Powell in cotton wool ahead of today’s win-or-bust visit of Cardiff City.
Powell has scored five goals in his three substitute appearances since returning to the fold after a hamstring injury.
That’s enabled Latics to pick up six points from a possible nine to retain an outside chance of avoiding the drop back into League One.
Barrow’s men could well need to win each of their last three matches to have any chance of survival – and Powell is integral to their hopes of doing that.
“Nick’s been immense really,” gushed Barrow.
“It’s even more amazing when you know how little work he’s done behind the scenes.
“It was really just an out and out gamble between me and him to get him on the pitch against Rotherham, and have a go.
“For him to respond with five goals in something like 70 minutes of football is phenomenal.
“A decision regarding Saturday will be taken between me and him. It’s a conversation we’ll have before the game.”
Barrow has had to balance his obvious desire to get Powell back on the field for as long as possible, while avoiding a recurrence of the injuries that have ruined his season.
“It’s been a lot of cotton wool if I’m being honest,” the interim boss acknowledged.
“Because he hasn’t really done a lot of work, he’s had to be careful with other areas of his body, like his groin and his hips. There’s no substitute for training and playing – and only a special talent like him can get away with it.
“That’s what he’s had to do and, because the games have been coming thick and fast, there’s not been the time in between to recover.
“It’s all been about playing, and trying to lengthen that time we can get him out on the pitch.
“At Brighton on Monday, I saw him feeling the back of his leg a couple of times, and I thought: ‘Oh no’.
“He was all right, and I asked him after – because we have this relationship – what the hell he was doing.
“He just said he was all right, there was no problem!
“But that’s what it’s like – that’s how important he is to the situation at the moment.
“I trust him and he trusts me, and we’ll decide how much of an involvement he’ll have for the weekend.”
Barrow admits the Latics fans will again have a key role to play in getting their side – who are aiming for a third home win on the bounce – over the line.
“I’d just like them to keep doing what they’ve been doing,” Barrow added.
“They’ve stuck by us in very difficult circumstances, like when we went 2-0 down against Barnsley. But once there was that sniff of a chance, the volume went up dramatically, and that’s what we’ll need from the off.
“We’ll give it our best shot – we will have all our attacking options on the pitch and on the bench. Let’s go for it.
“If it’s anywhere near as exciting as the last two home games then it’ll be fantastic.
“One thing’s for sure – Cardiff will come at us, in their own way. It’ll be an open game, just like the last two home games have been – and that will suit us.
“The main thing is for us to win this game, and then we’ll worry about other results.”