Hull City manager Nigel Pearson says stricken captain Ian Ashbee is nearing a full return to playing.
Ashbee has been laid low for the best part of 14 months after a gruelling fitness battle that has seen him sidelined by a knee injury.
The midfielder has twice undergone surgery on the problem and doubts had been cast over the 33-year-old's long-term playing future.
But Ashbee has signalled his intention to return to first-team football at the KC Stadium and will step up his comeback in the Tigers' pre-season preparations.
And new boss Pearson says the skipper has displayed encouraging signs in his bid to lead the club once again.
"He looked very, very good," Pearson told the Hull Daily Mail.
"He's come back and looks full of enthusiasm. He's done all the training so far and that's very encouraging for us."
Ashbee could feature in City's pre-season friendlies, which commence on Monday with a trip to non-league outfit Winterton before fixtures against North Ferriby and York.
The games will provide Pearson with his first opportunity to cast an eye over his new charges after taking over from Iain Dowie in June.
The former Leicester chief will use the work-outs as a chance to experiment with his team before their Championship curtain-raiser against Swansea on 7th August.
"Essentially they're training sessions but having a competitive edge helps," Pearson explained.
"They are a chance for us to have a look at the players, experiment a little bit in the early stages, and by the end have your plans in place for the important fixtures."