Sheffield United midfielder Paul Coutts could make his long-awaited return to action when Chris Wilder's side play a friendly against non-league opposition next week.
Bramall Lane's coaching staff were last night considering whether to name the midfielder, who has not played since breaking a leg nine months ago, in their squad for Tuesday's visit to Sheffield FC after being encouraged by his progress in recent weeks.
The match, which serves as Matt Roney's testimonial, is also expected to see John Lundstram, Simon Moore and Daniel Lafferty handed starts by the Championship club having struggled for game-time of late.
"When Couttsy comes back it will be like getting a new player," Wilder said. "If it was up to him, and probably me, he would already be out there now but we've got to do the right thing and follow the advice.
"He's been doing really well and we've got a course of action to make sure he's in the best possible shape."
"Couttsy's not far away now," the United manager, speaking earlier this month, added. "But, even though we know what he can do, he's going to have to play the same development games and friendlies as anyone else in his position would. That's the process you have to go through."
Oliver Norwood's performances after arriving on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion, coupled with United's recent results in the league, have eased the pressure on Wilder to bring forward Coutts' comeback. But the trip to Dronfield would appear to represent an ideal opportunity to ease him back into the fold following such a lengthy absence.
United's preparations for this weekend's game against Aston Villa are taking place against a backdrop of activity on the transfer market as Wilder attempts to sign two players before tomorrow's loan deadline. Middlesbrough's Marvin Johnson and Scott Hogan, who plays for Steve Bruce's side, are among his list of targets. United have also been linked with Johnson's team mate Ashley Fletcher although, like Bruce, Tony Pulis wants to recruit replacements before allowing anyone to depart.
"We're working hard to get things done," Wilder said. "Hopefully we'll be in an even stronger position then."