Stuart Holden believes he will be ready to make a return to competitive action with Bolton in the new year.
The United States international has endured a wretched time with injuries, with knee problems having restricted him to just one League Cup outing in over 18 months.
Holden believes he has got to the bottom of a niggling ligament complaint and is closing on a return to full match fitness.
He will not be rushing his way back into Bolton's bid to secure an immediate return to the Premier League, but is confident he will come back into contention in early 2013.
"The first team is the main goal, I don't want to play in the reserves for the rest of the year," Holden told Sky Sports.
"It's more to get fitness and to get some game sharpness, because when you have been out for a while you lose a little bit.
"I have been doing all the work that I can, extra running, and doing well in the training but nothing replicates being in a match.
"We are probably looking in the New Year.
"I have been so hesitant to put a timescale on things because of how the last 14 months have gone. There have been so many ups and downs, when I think I'm there I'm not quite there and this time I know that I am there but I want to make sure I don't go back two steps again. Slow and steady wins the race and I will be back to full fitness before I know it."
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