Bristol Rovers defender Garry Kenneth facing a big fitness battle
BRISTOL Rovers boss Mark McGhee is to put defender Garry Kenneth on an intensive exercise regime after admitting to concerns over his fitness.
Kenneth arrived at the Memorial Stadium in the summer – but has not played a competitive game since he left Dundee United last May and his attempts to return to full fitness have been hampered by niggling injuries.
The big central defender is sidelined with a calf strain after limping out of the warm-up at Barnet on August 21, but reckons he will have recovered in time to be considered for selection when Fleetwood visit the Memorial Stadium on September 22.
McGhee says Kenneth will do a "huge job" for the club – but estimates it could be Christmas before the defender will be fit enough to showcase his full range of talents.
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He said: "I still worry about Garry's general fitness and his weight. He's a boy who works so hard in the gym and on the training ground, but I don't see him reducing his weight or increasing his fitness as quickly as I'd like.
"I'm concerned about that because I wouldn't be keen on playing him in a game until he is somewhere close to 100 per cent fit. He will do a huge job for us when he is on top of his game, but we're a bit away from getting him into that sort of shape.
"I've got a few ideas on how we're going to get him there, which will include him having to leave his car at the Memorial Stadium, so that he can run into the training ground in the mornings."
Kenneth decided to drop down to League Two in a bid to revive a career that had seen him make two appearances for Scotland in 2010, shortly after he had been the subject of a reported £500,000 bid from Championship side Blackpool.
"Garry is a naturally a big fellow, but he's only 25-years-old and I don't think it should be a problem to maintain his weight and to get himself in the sort of shape of which a professional athlete should be," added McGhee, pictured.
"He wasn't in great shape when he arrived after having a few months off and that was the starting point. The lad has worked hard since, but he's had a couple of niggling injuries that have hampered our efforts to bring him up to full fitness in the six weeks or so that he has been here.
"I'm absolutely determined to get in him in shape because I'm looking at the Scotland squad and I know he's capable of being at the sort of level to be considered."
McGhee, meanwhile, paid tribute to the Bristol Rovers supporters who got behind the team right up until Fabian Broghammer grabbed an 89th-minute equaliser against Aldershot on Saturday.
"If the fans hadn't been patient, we would not have got that goal," said McGhee. "They have to take some of the credit for what happened because we have a lot of young players who do feel the pressure.
"By keeping the pressure off them right up until the final whistle, I think our supporters offered the lads an opportunity to go and get something from the game.
"We feel a little bit of injustice that we didn't win the game, but it was very important we didn't lose it. I think that would have been a terrible blow to us and it would have been a really difficult week here on the training ground."
Defender Cian Bolger, meanwhile, arrived at training on crutches yesterday morning after having to be taken off on a stretcher with a knee problem during Saturday's game.
"Cian is a bit sore and is on crutches, but we're still looking at the possibility that he may be fit for the Gillingham game on Saturday," said McGhee.