Ståle Solbakken has admitted he would be happier if Tongo Doumbia does not go to next month’s African Cup of Nations – but will do nothing to stand in his way.
The Mali midfielder was recently sent back to recharge his batteries in France and showed signs of improvement in Saturday’s game at Middlesbrough.
Now further uncertainty lies ahead in the shape of a New Year tournament that is set to take players away from a host of English clubs for several weeks.
“It’s still up in the air at the moment,” the manager said. “There are many things involved and it’s a big decision for everyone.
“We don’t really want him to go but we will see what happens.
“If he wants to go and he’s picked, it’s no problem - we must be without him.
“It’s as simple as that. There are international rules for this.
“In a way, I can influence it a little bit but I’m not going to twist his arm. This is his country.
“He started to go past people a little bit again on Saturday. He got his cramp on 70 minutes and maybe he’ll be able to push it a little longer next time.”
The boss has pinpointed the Mali situation as one of the factors that will determine whether the club renew their interest in former loan midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong.
The 20-year-old Arsenal midfielder, who impressed during an injury-curtailed spell with Wolves last winter, is four games into a loan spell with Charlton but is due to return to the Emirates Stadium early in January.
Solbakken has been watching developments and adds: “I think we’ve been right so far on this one.
“We’ve monitored his situation with Charlton and seen the games. He’s better now than when he first went there. When he first went, he struggled a bit with his fitness. You could see that with the amount of minutes he played. Now he’s playing a little bit more but not 90 minutes.
“There were very good reasons for doing that. If he had come here, there would have been big pressure on him and if you’re not at your best, that can be hard for a young player.
“Dave Davis has come in and done his job well when he should. He came on at Watford and played well, played OK against Millwall from the beginning and well when he came in at Middlesbrough.
“He has been a steady first substitute for us in many ways.
“Frimpong is one of the players we can keep an eye on.
“It also depends on the injury situation and other factors….if Jamie can recover, if Dave Davis can continue his progress and if Tongo can come back, depending what happens with Mali. There are a lot of question marks there.”
The manager has also given his views on Jermaine Pennant and says the fact that the winger’s arrival from Stoke was followed by a down-turn in results is purely coincidental.
“Jermaine has been a little bit unlucky,” he said. “The ankle problem affected his match fitness, so the next time he got the chance, he had to show he was ready.
“I think he was a little bit unlucky. He wasn’t picked for the Bristol City game when we performed well, then we had a very good second half against Birmingham and a good game against Middlesbrough.
“So he has also been a little bit unlucky in not being there at the right moment. He came in when the season turned the wrong way for us, so it’s not just about him, it’s also about team performances.
“He’s a little bit frustrated but he has been very positive as a person.”