Scott Parker has admitted Manchester United loan-back Ethan Laird has struggled to understand “the complexity of what we are asking” after playing just 40 minutes since arriving in January.
Laird’s presence or absence has been a bone of contention lately, with the 20-year-old’s last appearance coming in Bournemouth’s 2-1 loss to Preston on March 5.
Laird has since been omitted from six of the seven matches that followed, despite being fit for selection. DorsetLive previously reported that there were doubts about Laird’s fitness and physical levels. It is understood there was some surprise at his slow progress in recovering from a thigh injury suffered while on loan at Swansea in December.
It’s important to note, however, that hamstring issues shortly after signing further delayed his transition to Parker’s plans and his expected return date in early February.
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The availability of Adam Smith, backed by Jack Stacey, has increased competition at right-back. Consequently, Laird found himself as Parker’s third-choice option and was previously forced to train on match days with other peripheral first-team figures.
Talk to DorsetLive On Thursday afternoon, Parker insisted Laird could still make an impact by the end of the season.
“I’ve seen a big improvement in Ethan. I think I’ve told you before that he definitely has a role to play here. I think his level has improved.
“He came into an environment that’s probably very, very different. He’s had an injury so it’s been a bit slow. But certainly Ethan has shown great qualities and great moments and I know he can help us. help for the run-in.”
It might seem counter-intuitive, given that they play on opposite sides, but an opportunity for Laird to assert his claim could come due to Jordan Zemura’s absence over the Easter period. The growing possibility of Smith filling in at left may mean Laird would be in contention, along with Stacey, for the starting spot at right-back. That, at the very least, would boost his chances of making the matchday squad.
When asked if Laird’s difficult loan spell was influenced by fitness issues or an inability to understand tactical demands, Parker agreed that both were potential reasons.
The Cherries head coach added: “Definitely fit. Because, first of all, he missed six or seven weeks. Then he went into an intense and very difficult training environment. So the moment where he suffered this injury was difficult.
“Then the complexity of what we’re asking for and how we want to play, that’s taken a bit of time, and a few more. But like I said, I’ve seen a big improvement in Ethan and I’d like to think he may have a part to play by the end.”
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