THEY are the three men who could have a big say for City over the next few weeks.

Physios Chris Royston and Dale Avison and performance coach Ben Nicholson have had their work cut out with the number of absentees from David Hopkin’s plans right now.

With 13 of the squad currently out of his selection thoughts, it has made the job of the club’s medical team even more important in ensuring those fit and available stay that way.

This is the last free week before a run of Tuesday outings – which will stretch those playing resources even more.

So Hopkin is putting his belief in the safe – and hopefully healing – hands of those entrusted in keeping the squad on the park.

“Recovery is going to be massive now between the Saturday and Tuesday games when you have so many injuries,” he said.

“We have to look after them, like getting the ice baths introduced, protein and everything else we can do.

“Ben, Chris, Dale, the sports science and physios are going to play a massive role to make sure players are conditioned for those games. That’s a challenge.

“The backroom staff will play a big part and hopefully we don’t pick up any more injuries.”

There was some relief that Hopkin could report a clean bill of health from the Charlton defeat – none of the current walking wounded are expected to be back in the fold in time to face Doncaster next weekend.

But in the long term, the head coach is confident he can reduce City’s casualty rate.

Hopkin is looking to crack down on the number of soft-tissue injuries to muscles and tendons that are swelling the crocked list.

He added: “I’m massively keen on injury prevention and recovery. That’s my strength.

“That’s what we need to work on. These things are fundamental to me to make sure that each player is in peak condition.

“I’m sure hopeful in the coming months that you’ll start to see players coming back and not picking up any soft-tissue injuries. They are avoidable.

“You can’t avoid somebody hurting a leg, shoulder or knee. But we need to make sure soft-tissue ones are sorted.

“I’m sure the staff will take it on board because they are buying into what I’m trying to do at the training ground.

“It’s why recovery is such a big part of football now, especially with the turnover for us in the next few weeks when we start playing Saturdays and Tuesdays.”

Jake Reeves and Alex Jones remain the long-term absentees – but there is some light at the end of the tunnel with the midfielder.

Reeves has not featured for City since the end of January but Hopkin hopes to see him back training by the end of the month.

Jones, who played 45 minutes in a pre-season friendly at Guiseley, could still be a bit longer.

Hopkin added: “It will be a massive boost to have them back.

“They have been out a long time and it’s important we get these players back into how we want to play. It will give us more options and make us stronger as a group.

“We’ve got a good medical team behind us and I’ll always make sure I speak to them and get the best advice.

“If we can get them out playing, look after them and don’t push them too hard over the first three or four days back training then hopefully we can gradually ease them back in.

“Different coaches and managers will tell you different things about fitness. My standards are very high.

“It may take time to get it right but I’ve seen encouraging signs. The players have got to believe in someone that’s here.

“In the short time I’ve been here, they’ve probably seen training a bit more intense and a bit more professional. That’s my standards and hopefully that will keep going.”

Hopkin believes that extra edge to City’s fitness is already becoming noticeable with the way they battled against Charlton.

“I think the players are starting to see the benefit of it,” he said. “You saw the game on Saturday and I thought we competed well and the energy levels were better.

“It’s credit to the players that they are taking on board what I am trying to do.

“That’s a massive thing and then hopefully when we get everybody back fit, we’ve got a bigger squad to choose from.

“But at this moment the players who are training and are available for selection have stepped up to the mark.”