DOUGIE Freedman reckons fitness issues are continuing to hold Josh Vela back from unleashing his true potential.

Wanderers’ medical team have been working hard with the talented midfielder to cure issues associated with knee ligament damage he received in a League Cup defeat to Crawley last August.

The 19-year-old has played only an hour of football this season, against Tranmere Rovers in the same competition, but has struggled to train effectively and force his way towards a regular first-team place.

Freedman is keen to give Vela a chance and has been contacted by a handful of clubs about a possible loan.

But the Wanderers boss wants to first get to the bottom of the knee problem which has held him back for the majority of the last 12 months.

“Josh got into the first team when he was young but had a serious injury that no one has ever really flagged up,” he told The Bolton News.

“So, in training, he finds it hard to get up to the level of training he is expected to.

“It has been recommended by our side that possibly he needs to go out on loan, and I think it’s something he could benefit from.

“But right now that’s a ‘no’ because he needs to get fitter before he goes out and plays.”

Tom Eaves and Cian Bolger are to be sent out on loan next week after “outgrowing” the development squad, and while Freedman would like to consider Vela a part of his senior set-up, he admits a spell away could be good for his career.

“Josh has gone over the under-21 stage, the same for Tom and Cian,” he said. “They are caught in between where we need to send them out to keep developing them and play them.”

For now, Vela remains at the Reebok and may be involved for the development squad at Manchester United on Monday.