GARY Bowyer has hailed the new mature Joe Riley as the defender continues to fight back from his serious knee injury.

The full back has begun light jogging outside in the next phase of his long-term recovery programme after damaging his cruciate in pre-season training.

Bantams boss Bowyer has noticed a huge difference in Riley, both physically and mentally, and feels he deserves huge credit.

READ MORE: City team-mates have Riley's back

Bowyer said: “He’s worked ever so hard and the change in the lad as a person in the last couple of months has been really pleasing to see.

“You see him now and physically he is ripped. He’s not shy to let you know that either!

“But that’s a credit to him for how he’s gone about it.

“We’re delighted for him and all the lads were buzzing to see him back out jogging on the grass.”

Riley featured just eight times for City last year and found himself well out of the picture during David Hopkin’s reign.

Bowyer promised him a fresh start and the former Manchester United defender showed up well in the early friendlies before suffering the injury during a session at Apperley Bridge.

“Last season wasn’t great for him on a footballing point of view,” added Bowyer.

“Pre-season was a fresh start for him and then to have that hammer blow and the manner of what it was in terms of nobody being near him when it happened.

“He could have felt the world was against him and what was the point.

“But he hasn’t. He’s gone the other way.

“Getting over the initial disappointment, the determination and desire from him to use this time wisely has been great.

“He’s got really serious on his diet and his rehabilitation. That’s the maturity of realising that can help him to get back quicker.”

Riley is focusing on a possible return before the end of the season but Bowyer refuses to put a timeframe on his recovery.

He said: “It’s a case of how long is a piece of string.

“You would hope so, in this day and age when they do come back quicker.

“He’s on course but we’re not going to push him to say he must get back for this or that. We’ve told him that.

“When players get to that contract situation, it plays on their minds and we totally understand.

“But don’t go and do something that puts you back even further.

“Just relax and take your time. If it needs three more weeks, then take them, if you’re back three weeks earlier, then brilliant.”