Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, believes Paul Coutts will use this week's training camp in Portugal as a springboard back into first team football.
The midfielder has travelled to Vale de Lobo, where the Championship club are based until Saturday, after recovering from a broken leg.
Although Wilder admits coaching staff will monitor Coutts' progress closely before granting him the green light to take part in any pre-season games, the 29-year-old has completed a number of sessions since the squad arrived in the Algarve on Sunday night.
"He's doing all the running and doing all the gym work," Wilder said. "He's involved in training out in Portugal. He's coming back from a horrible injury and we'll get it right."
Coutts, one of United's most influential players, fractured a tibia during November's victory over Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium. His importance was underlined when, having climbed to the top of the table following that win, the visitors won only two of their next 11 matches before eventually finishing 10th.
Despite acknowledging Coutts' qualities, Wilder has warned Lee Evans, Ryan Leonard and John Lundstram could prevent him from earning an immediate recall. One of those three are expected to partner John Fleck when United face Maritimo in a friendly at Bela Vista Estadio tomorrow night (Kick-off 7pm, local time).
"His attitude has been first class and he's a first class player," Wilder said. "We want him back as soon as possible. We're looking at him, scanning him and the consultant says it's stronger than ever.
" He's been out of the game for nine months so it will take a while for him to get back up to speed and he's got some very good players to get past too. But we want him back and we'll do it properly."