Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has praised David Meyler for his attitude while battling back from injury but insists 'the gloves are off' now he is fit.
The 22-year joined the Black Cats in July 2008 but has suffered two serious knee injuries since that have hampered his progress and even threatened his career.
The Irishman spent the summer in America undergoing specialist treatment in an attempt to return to full fitness.
He made his comeback for the reserves earlier this month and played another full 90 minutes for the Sunderland second-string against Everton last week.
After those two successful outings Bruce feels Meyler is ready for the first team again, but warned he will not be in for any special treatment.
"David has had a terrible time with really bad injuries. They were injuries that could have easily finished his career. But he has worked incredibly hard to get fit," Bruce told the Daily Express.
"His attitude has been absolutely magnificent and there is no one who was more determined to get back playing again than he was.
"I am just keeping my fingers crossed for him that all his injury problems are in the past and that he stays fit.
"There's no need for the kid-glove treatment with David any more. The gloves are off now.
"As far as I am concerned he is now back in the squad and available."