TALENTED Town midfielder Jon Worthington today agreed a new contract - then went under the surgeon's knife.
The Gomersal-based 20-year-old, who has committed himself to the McAlpine club until the summer of 2006, has had a hernia operation.
Worthington's controversial dismissal in the FA Cup first-round defeat at Accrington Stanley last month means he is serving a three-match ban which will keep him out of Third Division action until the Boxing Day date at Darlington.
"He's been in discomfort for a while now, and while he can still run okay, the operation had to be done at some point, so this enforced lay-off provided the ideal opportunity," explained manager Peter Jackson.
"Surgery on hernias has come on a long way, and it's now a relatively simple operation with a quick recovery rate, so we're hoping Jon will be available once his suspension ends."
Worthington's last appearance in Town colours was in the 3-3 draw at Mansfield the Saturday before last, taking his total to 42 with one goal (in the 1-1 draw at Rochdale in September).
The previous week, he had bounced back from the controversy over his Cup sending off - Jackson later branded the FA appeals process a "disgrace" after the straight red for what was termed serious foul play was upheld - to produce a man-of-the-match display in the 3-1 home win over then-leaders Hull.
Having come through the Town youth ranks, he made his debut in the 2-1 Division II defeat at Plymouth early last season and was originally contracted until the end of this campaign.
The agreement of a two-year extension is a sign that Jackson is starting to build for the future, and the boss added: "Hopefully it will be the first of a number of new contracts and I'm delighted to get things sorted out with Jon.
"He's done very well for me this season, his attitude and workrate is first class, and I still can't believe he is having to serve this ban."
Jackson, meanwhile, will be a spectator when John Dungworth's Town Under 18 team take on West Ham in the third round of the FA Youth Cup at the McAlpine tomorrow (7.00).
Town have beaten Grimsby (4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw) and Thackley (4-2 with goals by James Hand, Gavin Huxall, Matthew Young and Joe Shaw) in home ties.
But the clash with the London club, who won the competition in 1999, beating Coventry 9-0 on aggregate, will be the toughest so far.
"I've watched both the games so far and I'm looking forward to tomorrow," said Jackson.
"You think about West Ham as the club who produced the likes of Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Glen Johnson in recent years.
"But we have some excellent youngsters of our own, and this is a great opportunity for them to play under the McAlpine floodlights.
"Hopefully we'll have a good crowd to have a look at some of our up-and-coming players and back the lads as they bid for a big win."
Admission is £3 adults and £1 concessions, and Town's ticket office and club shop will be open right up to kick-off.