Jonson Clarke-Harris is on course for an April comeback as he bids to bring his seven-month Rotherham United injury ordeal to an end.
The young striker hasn’t featured in the Millers’ 2016/17 Championship campaign after damaging cruciate knee ligaments in the opening pre-season friendly last July and undergoing surgery.
But the 22-year-old is back in training and less than three weeks away from full-contact work, leading caretaker manager Paul Warne to predict he will make his first-team return next month.
“He needs full contact and a couple of reserve games and then he’ll be available for selection, if everything goes well,” Warne whose bottom-placed side entertain Aston Villa tomorrow, told The Star.
“Although he’s at the end part of his rehab, it’s the most important part. We’re doing everything we possibly can to get him over the finish line. I think he will be available for the last five or six games.
“He’s about two and a half weeks away from full contact. Today (Thursday) he was training predominantly with the squad, but they can’t tackle him, which suits him as a centre-forward. He can just turn and shoot whenever he likes!”
Former club record buy Clarke-Harris, who is out of contract at the end of the season, was hurt in an innocuous challenge playing against non-league Parkgate FC.
Warne was a spectator at Villa Park on Tuesday night as Steve Bruce’s men beat Bristol City 2-0 to record their second successive win after a five-match losing streak.
He said: “When I went to watch them, I thought: ‘It looks all right for us this.’ Then they suddenly tried a bit harder and I thought: ‘Ooooh.’ That’s sort of how it went.”
Villa were a Premier League team last season, and Warne added: “Games like these are the ones you want to be involved in.
“They’ll bring a big following, which suits us. If there’s a really good away following, it usually gets our fans more up for it.”
The interim boss, whose side have shipped more goals, 77, than any other team in the Football League, has pledged to be bold against a Villa outfit in 15th spot after their expected promotion push failed to materialise.
“I’ll put out the most attacking team I can, although I won’t go completely reckless,” he said. “I won’t put six up front.
“But we’ve got to score goals because we concede. If we don’t score two, we’re not going to win. That’s sort of how I’m planning to send the lads out.
“I want them to enjoy playing for me and the club and have a right go. If they do that and they lose, they won’t be berated by me.”