Preston North End could have winger Chris Humphrey back in training before the end of the season.
Although the 28-year-old’s playing return will be after the summer, he is ahead of schedule is his recovery from a shin fracture.
Humphrey has not played since October after a stress fracture of his right shin bone was diagnosed.
It was hoped that a period of rest would see it heal naturally but that proved not to be the case.
The Jamaica international had surgery in January, with a metal plate inserted in the leg to help the fracture mend.
PNE boss Simon Grayson told the Evening Post: “Chris has had the good news that he’s healed really well after the operation.
“He won’t be back playing this season but it might be that he comes back earlier than expected in respect of joining in training with the squad before the end of the season.
“That would be a massive boost for him, given that he hasn’t been able to train with the group for such a long time.
“Chris has spent many hours in the gym with Jermaine Beckford over the last few months – they have done their rehab work together.
“It would be really nice for him to be able to get back on the training pitch with the lads and get a few sessions under his belt.
“That would give him a head start ready for when he starts pre-season training in July.”
Humphrey is one of three long-term Preston casualties who are at various stages of their recoveries. It was four, with Beckford having recently seen the back of the treatment room and returned to action as a late sub against QPR before the international break.
The others keeping the medical staff busy are Liam Grimshaw and Stevie May.
Grimshaw has yet to play since joining from Manchester United in January.
His medical showed up an issue with the lining of his knee and he underwent surgery.
North End were happy to press ahead with the transfer, taking a longer-term view on a player who can operate in midfield or at right-back.
Striker May damaged three ligaments in his knee against Fulham in November.
One of the ligaments healed naturally, with the other two repaired when he had surgery last month.
Said Grayson: “Grimmy’s injury was quite a strange one in the first place, hence why the medical took some time and he then had the operation.
“He has made really good progress in the last 10 days or so, the swelling of his knee has gone down.
“We will make a decision soon as to whether we are going to get him back before the end of the season or just decide it is not worth it and shut him down in order to get him ready for pre-season.
“Grimmy is a good player and I’m looking forward to seeing him play for us.
“Stevie May saw the surgeon last Thursday for an update and his knee is healing really well, which is positive news.”