Perth Glory coach Richard Garcia hopes Daniel Sturridge will be ready for a full game by mid-January, but a timeline for skipper Brandon O’Neill’s return still hangs in the air.
Sturridge hasn’t played since making a nine-minute cameo off the bench in the season-opening 1-1 draw with Adelaide United.
Garcia wants to take a careful approach with Sturridge given the former England international hadn’t played a professional match in 21 months before joining Glory.
Sturridge will miss Wednesday night’s match against Melbourne City at AAMI Park, but he is on track to return off the bench against either Brisbane Roar on December 18, or against Adelaide on December 23.
If all goes to plan, Sturridge will be back to full fitness in time for a series of home games for Glory in mid January.
“We are planning on in the next few weeks giving him 15, 20 minutes here or there,” Garcia said.
“Hopefully he can build up and not come out of it with any problems, and once we do that we’ll keep pushing forward from there on.
“We’re hoping that we build him up to the full 90 minutes in mid January. That will be fantastic if we can get to that stage and have him ready for that home run that we’ve got.”
O’Neill didn’t join his teammates on the flight to Melbourne last month given his wife was heavily pregnant.
Given the complexities of WA’s border situation, it’s appearing increasingly likely that O’Neill won’t return to action until early January.
That would ensure O’Neill gets to spend Christmas with his wife and newborn child before rejoining the team for the three-match swing in Sydney in early 2022.
“We’ve advised him to make sure that he spends appropriate time being with his wife and child, and then we’ll take it from there,” Garcia said.
“We’ll have to play it by ear.”
Former Socceroos goalkeeper Brad Jones is expected to be sidelined until late January with a calf injury.
Glory had originally planned to return to Perth for Christmas before flying back to the eastern states to continue their road trip.
But now that WA’s border is shut to South Australia, Glory will need to quarantine upon arriving back to Perth in a situation that would rob the players of Christmas freedom.
Instead, Glory are exploring the option of staying over in the east for Christmas and having their families join them over there.
“That (having our families with us) is something that we’ve always wanted,” Garcia said.
“We were also thinking about having different accommodation – not being in a hotel, but maybe having serviced apartments.
“It would be nice to have a normal life … and going back to your place and having your family there.”