Draper delay to ease Injury Crisis (8 Jan)
 Aston Villa midfielder Mark Draper is prepared to go through the pain barrier and
 delay surgery on his year-long ankle problem to help manager John Gregory through
 an injury crisis. 

 Draper is facing an operation to cure the ankle ligament damage which has troubled
 him since Gregory took charge last February. 

 But the former Leicester City player is ready to answer an SOS call from Gregory,
 who is already without Alan Thompson and Paul Merson, and put surgery on hold
 until later in the month. 

 Thompson will be out for at least another three weeks with an ankle injury suffered in a freak
 training ground accident while Merson is still not fully recovered from a back problem. 

 Gregory said: ``Mark is ready to put off surgery for a while because we are a bit short on the
 ground in midfield at the moment. 

 ``With Alan Thompson out, it is a question of all hands to the pump, and Mark is happy to play on
 for the time being.'' 

 It is likely that Draper will delay his operation until after the televised clash with Everton on Monday,  January 18. 

 He said: ``I hoped the injection I had before Christmas would clear things up sufficiently to at least
 allow me to put off any surgery until the end of the season. 

 ``It had been giving me some grief, but I wanted to get back playing. It is apparent now that I am
 going to need surgery, but I'll try and put if off for a while.'' 

 The good news for Gregory is that another midfielder Ian Taylor will be fit to return against
 Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday after resting a groin problem against Hull in  
 the FA Cup 

Martin Sivorn © 1999.E-Mail Me