Bolton boss Owen Coyle reckons the return of Stuart Holden will be like a new signing.
The USA international has been sorely missed since rupturing knee ligaments against Manchester United at Old Trafford in March.
It has been a slow process of rehabilitation for the 26-year-old midfielder and he is now set to make his first-team comeback.
Coyle admits Saturday's match at home to Norwich may come too soon but he is almost certain to feature in Tuesday's Carling Cup trip to Aston Villa.
Holden continued his recovery in the reserves' 3-3 draw with Arsenal in midweek but Coyle stressed he is eager to ensure the fans' favourite does not suffer a relapse.
"Stuart played 90 minutes the other night and did very well," he said.
"There is no doubt, day by day, he is still improving, but what we have to make sure is when we bring him back in it is not detrimental to the hard work he has done.
"Is Saturday too soon for him to start? Probably so. But having said that, if he continues the way he has done I would certainly be hopeful of starting him on Tuesday against Villa in the Carling Cup.
"He is progressing in the right manner, which is a tremendous boost for Stuart with what he has been through.
"He got a fractured leg in an international game against Holland in his first season and then he played at such a high standard last season - he was our most consistent and best player until he picked up the injury.
"It will be a tremendous boost when you have a player of that quality returning.
"It is probably like going into the transfer market and signing a £10million player.
"He is an outstanding player and outstanding young man and it will be a real boost when he is back fit and at 100 per cent, and hopefully that is not too far away."
Coyle also saw his new signings impress in the reserve game, with £4million former Liverpool striker David Ngog scoring twice.
Tuncay Sanli got the other goal and fellow loanee Gael Kakuta also featured, and Coyle believes his squad now possesses a strength in depth it has not before.
"The new signings did very well," said the Bolton boss. "Tuncay, Gael and David all came in without having had the match fitness at their previous clubs so we have to get them up to speed and the intensity we want them to play at.
"That is why the other night will have served as a real good exercise in terms of getting up their sharpness and awareness.
"They all did very well. Tunny scored, David got the other two and Gael did very well but Stuart also played and we had four or five first-team players playing because we wanted Stuart back in that environment and it was a valuable exercise.
"What we have now is real strength in depth in terms of the numbers and that is something we never had last season."