Wigan Athletic chief sounds warning over key defender

Shaun Maloney says the long-awaited return of Jason Kerr to the Wigan Athletic first team will still 'take a bit of time'.
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This weekend will mark the one-year anniversary of Kerr last playing for Latics, when he suffered a serious knee injury at Swansea.

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'I sensed mentality was wrong before game', admits Wigan Athletic chief.

However, he was pictured back on the grass at Christopher Park, playing for more than three-quarters of the Development Squad's victory over Barnsley.

Jason Kerr is closing in on a first-team return after a year on the sidelinesJason Kerr is closing in on a first-team return after a year on the sidelines
Jason Kerr is closing in on a first-team return after a year on the sidelines
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That led to excitement among the fanbase about an imminent return to the Latics fold.

Maloney, though, explained the situation is more complex than that.

"That was Jason's second run out," he said. "He played 45 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Blackpool last week, and then another 70 minutes against Barnsley.

"It's obviously really good news, but it will take a bit of time.

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"He's been out for 12 months, and he'll have to build his game up, get to 90 minutes, and probably have three or four full games in the reserves before he's ready.

"But I've loved his mentality in training, a real competitor, and I've really enjoyed working with him.

"Fingers crossed he comes through this period and he starts pushing for selection, because he has the mentality we definitely need."

In reality, the timescale hasn't really changed, with Maloney being quoted over the summer as saying any first-team football before Christmas would be an unexpected bonus.

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"It will be about that, purely because of the nature of the injury he's had," the Latics boss added.

"If it was a shorter injury, you could probably get through 90 minutes in the reserves and be quite comfortable pushing him out into first-team contention.

"Because it's been so long - and I'd like to be quicker - I have to be fair to him.

"It's been a full year on the sidelines, and I really want him to get a few games under his belt before he's ready to fight for a position.

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"Even in the short period of time I've known him, you can see what a brilliant mentality he has.

"He'll put his body on the line in training, he's constantly talking, and he'll be a big asset if we can get him back to full fitness."