Stoke boss Tony Pulis is hoping Marc Wilson will soon be ready to return to first-team action.
Wilson broke his leg against Sunderland in October but played 75 minutes in a behind-closed-doors match against Northampton on Tuesday.
And the Potters boss is hopeful Wilson's return is imminent, insisting the 25-year-old's contribution to the side is vital.
Asked when he thought he would have Wilson back, Pulis said: "I'm not sure - as quick as we possibly can.
"I rate him as one of the best players at this football club and a very, very good Premier League player. We need him back.
"The balance of the team and squad has not been right. We have tried ever so hard to correct that in the summer and in the last window, but not been able to do it for all sorts of reasons - there is no one to blame.
"It has left us a little bit unbalanced, so to get Marc back in will be a real bonus for us.
"He has trained for the last month or so, but we have been careful with him in lots of respects.
"He needs games and he needs a little bit more training."