IT’S taken three managers and 15 months before Hartlepool United have been able get Luke Williams playing.

A succession of frustrations since he signed for Pools at the end of August last year have kept the attacker on the sidelines.

He didn’t start initially because of tonsillitis, then a knee problem needed surgery, which then needed further corrective surgery.

Under Matthew Bates, Richard Money and Craig Hignett, eight minutes as a substitute at the start of this season is all he was fit for.

But he returned to the squad under caretaker boss Antony Sweeney, making two substitute appearances, and now Dave Challinor is able to help the former Middlesbrough prospect back into the fray.

And then there’s the other Luke. Equally talented, equally frustrated, Molyneux has been out for the season after being injured in the summer in a friendly at York.

One is back in the first-team picture, one is still to come, but edging closer after ankle damage.

Challinor said: “Luke (Molyneux) is back on the grass. He’s been out a while and when I was coming in the process of coming here and you do your background on the club and players, him and the other Luke were both big hopes for the season and it’s not worked out.

“Williams is getting back gradually and Tuesday showed he is a long way off where he wants to be and where we need him to be. Games are a consequence for him and we need as much work as possible into him in order to get him back to competing and playing longer.

“Molyneux is back out there and the date for him back in training is towards the end of November, with a return to play date of second week in December. The 14th of December has been pencilled in.

“They have both been out a long time and both could be coming back into the squad at a busy time when it’s not perfect surfaces and we need to be careful. We want them both back fit and we want them back long-term, not just two-three weeks.

“But what we have seen and know then they could be like new signings in January.’’

Both attackers were going to be key men for previous managers and, while Challinor is enthralled at the prospect of seeing the pair in tandem, he is wary of pushing them back too quickly.

He added: “It’s exciting when you see what they can do. Luke has showed in the last two games what he is capable of doing and it’s showed where he needs to be. As a player and him kick-stating his career and getting to where he needs to be is important.

“The aim is to work with and improve the players here and if we can work with Luke and develop him then it benefits the club as we will have a player that can help get us where we want to be and then his career can take off – his ability means he should have suitors at a higher level wanting him.

“Let’s get him back for us, playing, creating and scoring.

“I spoke after the game on Tuesday and he said he couldn’t get his second wind in the game and maybe after a long trip that can be the case.

“As a player it can be difficult to come on from outside at a stage when it’s frantic. We need controlled work into him to increase the loads.

“I see it that he will end up working hard and, while you want to go into games on a weekend feeling your absolute best, with him it may not be the case.

“We have to work him and he may go into games feeling a bit tired and jaded, but that will benefit him down the line. A mini-pre-season if you like. The majority of work will be done in the training pitch and he will be aware it can be quite tough, but it will benefit him down the line.’’

After arriving back from their 4-1 FA Cup win at Yeovil in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Pools’ players were in training today.

While they stayed away from their regular base at Peterlee College to protect the pitches following the heavy rains of late, the squad trained on a 3G pitch at Brierton Sports Complex in the town.

And Challinor admitted ahead of Saturday’s game at Ebbsfleet: “It’s been a busy week, and it was a big ask in terms of travelling, but the results makes it better.

“The lads were off on Wednesday, but we train today and have a bright session, then travel Friday before a tough game.

“Football moves on quickly and Tuesday has gone now, but we take a lot of confidence from it and hope to get winning in the league.

“We couldn’t ask for more on Tuesday, it was a great start. We all want to win games, first game or the tenth and those in between.’’