Bertrand needs to build fitness - Hasenhuttl
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl says Ryan Bertrand remains away from the first team due to a lack of fitness.
England international Bertrand has not featured for the Saints since the 1-1 draw against Watford on November 10 after the club revealed he needed a minor back operation in December.
Initially, the 29-year-old was only expected to miss a couple weeks of action at most but he has failed to appear in the match-day squad for the last 16 games across all competitions.
Rumours regarding the defender's future at St Mary's were beginning to swirl but Hasenhuttl, who has revived Southampton since taking over from Mark Hughes on December 5, says a lack of fitness is the reason for Bertrand's absence.
"I think he is still raising his physical strength," he told the Daily Echo. "On this part, he has to work because he was long out and it's normal that if you start again training with the team it takes time until you are at the level where you can play 90 minutes.
"It doesn't make sense to bring any player on the bench if he is unable to play 90 minutes in the moment. That's what he has to work on and he is doing it."
James Mason grew up in Northumberland so is entrenched in both the football and golf scenes. A low handicap golfer, he also follows Newcastle United and predicts big things under Rafa Benitez.