Middlesbrough defender Matthew Bates is hoping to be pushing for a first-team place before Christmas.
The 21-year-old has suffered a horrific run of injuries in his fledgling career so far, after three cruciate knee ligament operations.
Now he is back in training after eight months' rehabilitation and he played for Boro's second-string on Tuesday.
Bates, who can play right-back or in central defence, is now hoping he can give manager Gareth Southgate a timely boost by returning to the squad.
"I hope to be knocking on the first-team door in six weeks," he said.
"It's good to be back. I had 30 minutes in a behind closed doors game last week and now another 45 minutes for the reserves.
"I'm a centre-back but I was happy to play right-back. There are possible opportunities in the first team at right-back at the moment and so it has given me a target to aim for. I want to get involved again and push for my place.
"I've come through the bit where you are thinking about your knee.
"My body is 100 per cent again, but maybe my lungs are only 70 or 80 per cent, and that's why I need a few more games.
"It won't be easy with the reserves playing every other week, but I have to keep going in training as well."