KEITH Southern has been labelled one of football’s best professionals as he returned to training after surgery to remove a tumour.
It is just two months since the Seasiders’ longest-serving player fell ill.
But despite the stress of coping with a serious condition and undergoing an operation, the 30-year-old has tried to stay as fit as possible.
And an emotional Pool boss Ian Holloway spoke from the heart when he talked about the boost of Southern returning to the training ground this week.
He said: “It is absolutely magnificent to have him back. There isn’t anything that stops that boy, and I am just delighted to continue to work with him.
“He never ceases to amaze me, and his strength of character is incredible.
“He is just a proper geezer.
“He has been running throughout what’s been going on and kept himself fit. What can I say? I have worked with loads of players, but I don’t think I have ever seen a better pro than Keith.
“That is not doing anyone else down. There are a lot who might be level with him but none will be in front of him.
“It sounds as though I am showering him with praise, but it is just the truth and you have to tell the truth.
“That boy is completely phenomenal. I am very proud to say I actually know him.
“Some people are loud and make a lot of noise around the place, but Keith just gets on with it. You know you can trust him, whether he says a word to you or not.
“He knows how I feel about him. I am getting a bit mushy now, but I mean it.
“He is one of the wonderful lads I have managed to inherit at this club, and it is one of the reasons why I love my job so much.”
Holloway was on top form at his weekly press conference. Principally he was there to discuss today’s Championship encounter with Crystal Palace, but the Pool boss doesn’t really do straightforward.
Speaking about the transfer window, for example, Holloway said: “I hate it because it makes me less positive and I only want to be positive.
“So come and join me on my little positive island, which is Blackpool, and let’s stop it rocking.
“Our boat is secure, let’s see what we can do, let’s help the people who are pulling off the rigging so we can sail off into the beautiful future. And stop causing all sorts of nonsense everywhere. So there you go. That’s how I feel.”
The manager is certainly upbeat, despite missing out on various transfer targets.
But he has signed Rangers’ John Fleck, who is expected to be on the bench for today’s game.
Skipper Barry Ferguson returns after suspension, and keeper Matt Gilks is available again after missing the last five games with a groin injury.