Nigel Pearson ponders key Bristol City decision as out-of-contract star praised

Matty James is making progress - but will he be fit enough to make the squad against Luton?
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Nigel Pearson has admitted Matty James’ status for Bristol City is still to be decided as he recovers from an ankle injury.

The Robins midfielder played the full match against Huddersfield Town last Tuesday but took a knock which ruled him out of the 2-0 win over Blackpool. James was not risked and was not in the match-day squad last Saturday, and it’s not decided whether he will play against Luton Town on Wednesday evening.

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Pearson has been in discussion with James, who has been influential for the side over the last few matches, contributing massively to their unbeaten run of form before defeats to Manchester City and Cardiff. The former Leicester City star trained at the High Performance Centre on Tuesday, but James’ manager admits that he needs his players to be at 100% for them to play.

He said: “He’s trained this morning, so we’ll see again whether there is any reaction. Of course he’s not done a lot now since last week so, hopefully he will be in the squad for tomorrow.

“He’s trained today and we’ll make a decision as to whether he’s involved tomorrow. I don’t pick players without talking to them, and if they’ve picked up an injury. It’s important we go into the game with confidence whoever starts, is feeling okay and feeling confident themselves.

“I don’t want to go into a game with players who are having doubts about their durability or ability to be competitive in the game.”

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In Joe Williams’ and then James’ absence, Andy King has stepped up and conducted himself well after a spell out of the side. King, who is out of contract at the end of the season, played as a centre-back during an injury crisis several months ago but has returned to his natural position and on Saturday assisted Andi Weimann for the opening goal.

King has taken on a different role this season for City, and is a player-coach, but despite taking on coaching responsibilities, he is fully focused on the playing side. He has managed to keep himself fit this season, putting behind him his hamstring problems and is a reliable option to call upon when needed.

When asked if King would need to be monitored for a quick succession of games, Pearson said: “There’s an element of that but as long as we’ve got some sort of a balance on the bench I’ll be relatively happy just to make sure we get the best combination on the day.

“It’s always a big ask when you’re asking senior players to play game after game, Kingy has proved over the last couple of games in particular, his game knowledge is something of great value. He’s a lot fitter than he was last year and so we’ll see how we are tomorrow.”

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Luton is the penultimate game before the international period, which will allow for the next players not called up over the next week-and-a-half to recover. Kal Naismith and Tommy Conway have both been sidelined for more than a month but could return for City’s first match back after the break, when they host Reading on Saturday, April 1.

Rob Atkinson and Williams meanwhile are ruled out for the remainder of the season, whilst Tomas Kalas is scheduled to be out for the next five weeks. Czech Republic international Kalas could return sooner, but there is an element of caution given his injury problems over the last year.

“I’m not really looking any further than the next two games at the minute but of course it comes as a decent time for us,” said Pearson when asked about the international period being at a good time for allow players to recover.

“Hopefully the likes of Tommy Conway and Kal Naismith will be available on our return. The World Cup helped us in that regard and this is just a normal international break but hopefully it gives us an added opportunity to get players back.”

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