HARRY Kewell has called for Latics fans to have patience with fellow Aussie George Blackwood as the striker nears a return from injury.

The versatile forward has scored two goals in 10 appearances since his summer arrival from Adelaide United but has been out since the end of November.

Having penned a two-year contract on his arrival at Boundary Park, the Australia Under-23 international has been given time to get used to life in the rough and tumble of English football.

And Kewell insists the huge change of going from the A-League to League Two should be taken into account when assessing the 23-year-old’s impact with Latics this season.

“He’s a fantastic athlete,” the Oldham boss said.

“It’s different to how it was when I played. Back in my day if you didn’t hit the ground running after three or four games then that’s it, you’re turfed out.

“Now you get a year to adjust, so let’s give him time.

“I know that the language barrier isn’t an issue but let’s face it, he’s come into a different climate, different kind of pitches, different style of play, different training set-up and all these things take time to understand and it takes time for players to adapt.

“George has been unlucky with injuries but he’s been looking good and we can’t wait for him to be back.”

Blackwood was on target against both Cheltenham and this weekend’s visitors to Boundary Park, Exeter City, in November, helping Latics to a pair of 2-1 victories in the process.

Since then, temperatures have plummeted to very un-Australian levels, not that the Sydney native has minded.

“He’s been very happy with the snow,” Kewell joked. “Everyone else wasn’t so happy but I don’t think he’s ever seen it before!”

Blackwood isn’t the only striker nearing a return with the Latics boss also hoping to be able to call on Zak Dearnley again sooner rather than later.

The former Manchester United man has managed six goals in 18 appearances this season but has had a stop-start campaign.

Both will give Kewell a real boost in the final third with Danny Rowe having left for Bradford last month.

Speaking before Saturday’s postponed game at Scunthorpe, the Latics boss said: “They are both back and training lightly and hopefully in a couple of weeks they’ll be out on the pitch.”