Simon Grayson hopes it will not be too long before Wembley hero Jermaine Beckford is back in full training with Preston North End.
Knee surgery has kept the striker sidelined for more than four months.
He has played only twice this season as a substitute and his prowess and experience in the forward line has been missed.
The nature of Beckford’s injury and the type of repair needed has meant his recovery has not been rushed.
His cartilage damage was fixed using microfracture surgery – small holes are drilled in the bone near to the damaged area which helps to build new cartilage.
North End boss Grayson said: “Jermaine is making good progress.
“It has been a slow process but he is doing a lot of work with the physios and has been doing a lot more running.
“He is working hard to get his fitness levels up and hopefully it is not too long before we have him back on the grass doing some work with the squad.
“With knee injuries you can get reoccurrences so we have had to be careful to avoid that.
“Jermaine will be like a new signing when he comes back but we won’t rush him.”
Beckford suffered the injury in pre-season and recovered sufficiently with the help of rest and treatment to return to action in August.
He came on as substitute in the home games against Ipswich and Watford but the injury flared-up ahead of the visit to Hull on August 29.
Last season, Beckford scored 18 goals for PNE, 15 of those coming from the end of February onwards after returning from illness.
He netted a hat-trick as PNE beat Swindon 4-0 in the League One play-off final.
Grayson believes the length of Beckford’s absence has been about what was expected, bearing in mind the seriousness of it.
Said Grayson: “He is not behind schedule, it was not a straight-forward knee injury.
“You have to careful that it does not blow up and rule him out for the rest of the season or even longer.”
Beckford currently has the company of Preston’s other walking-wounded, Chris Humphrey and Stevie May, as he strives for fitness.
Humphrey had surgery a fortnight ago to repair a fractured shin bone and is out for the season.
Also out long-term is May who is awaiting an operation after damaging knee ligaments in November.
Grayson said: “Sometimes it is lonely for a player when they are injured long term.
“But Jermaine has Humph alongside him, those two are gym buddies, darts buddies and swimming buddies.
“Humph has had the work done on his leg and has a lot of fitness work ahead of him over the next few months.
“Stevie May has got a brace on his knee, he’s walking around and doing gym work.
“He’s not had the operation to mend his cruciate ligament yet because they have to allow the swelling to go down.”