Ross County trio Greg Tansey, Andrew Davies and Jamie Lindsay are nearing a return from injury but will not be in starting contention for Saturday’s match against Hearts.
All three have been sidelined in recent weeks, with Tansey yet to make his debut after arriving on loan from Aberdeen last month with a groin injury, Davies troubled by a persistent calf strain and on-loan Celtic player Lindsay having injured his knee against Kilmarnock last month.
County return to action against the Jambos at Dingwall this weekend following a two week absence, and although the break has aided the players’ recovery, Coyle does not want to rush them back.
He said: “The weather has not been kind to us. When we’ve got boys coming back from the injuries they’ve had we’re wanting them to be on the grass, as opposed to being inside on the all-weather.
“Those boys have been working hard with the physio Kevin Bain, and getting a little bit better. I wouldn’t say they would be available to start on Saturday, that’s for sure, but they are back and stepping up their stuff.
“We will see how Tansey goes this week – he will train with the group but he would have to be training every day and feeling good about himself with no reaction.
“The skipper is coming along nicely, not yet with the group, but I wouldn’t suggest he’s too far away from it. He’s going to be needed at a very important time, at the business end of the season.
“Jamie Lindsay has just returned from Celtic, he had to go through the protocol as you do at a parent club, it’s totally understandable. He’s just got a wee niggle and Saturday will be too soon for him, but hopefully he will not be too far from there.”
Coyle reckons the returning players, along with his January arrivals, will create stiff competition for places for the first time during his tenure, having replaced Jim McIntyre as Staggies boss last September.
Coyle added: “Sometimes players can just be rolling along, whether it is sub-conscious, and it needs that little spark to kick them back into action. That’s what we need.
“There’s no doubt the likes of David Ngog, young Mattias Kait and Liam Fontaine will all help the group we have. The others will have to step up and make sure they’re in the team.
“Let’s be honest, we’ve never had that competition for places. Earlier in the season, there was a spell where, given the injuries and illnesses we had, if someone was fit and available they were in the team.
“We were limited in terms of options and the balance of the squad. We only had five defenders at the outset.”