Alex McLeish admits it is likely to be next month before on-loan midfielder Jermaine Jenas is ready to make his Aston Villa debut.
Jenas joined Villa from Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur before the close of the transfer window, but has been laid low by thigh and Achilles injuries.
He is now stepping up his rehabilitation programme, but Villa boss McLeish feels Jenas is still 'three or four games away' from being ready to play for the first team.
McLeish said: "I certainly know from the club doctor that he's not as bad as we first feared.
"But the only disadvantage Jermaine has is that he's short of match fitness which he won't get until he starts playing games.
"I would have thought he's three or four games away yet. He's gutted about it."
Villa face West Brom and Sunderland before the end of October, and then tackle Norwich City on 5th November prior to the next international break.
If Jenas is not ready to face the Canaries, then it is likely to be the end of November when he will be able to pull on a Villa shirt for the first time against Swansea City as he is ineligible to play parent club Spurs on 21st November.
Meanwhile, McLeish is optimistic defender James Collins will be available for Saturday's home derby clash with West Brom.
The Wales international missed the 4-1 defeat at Manchester City at the weekend with a groin problem.
McLeish said: "He has done some individual work this week and we believe he will be ready to join in with the group on Thursday."