Sheffield Wednesday chief Steve Bruce has vowed to be patient with players returning from injury as Kieran Lee and Gary Hooper near returns to first team training.
The injured Owls duo have been sidelined for over a year and are in a race against time to earn a new contract before both of their current deals expire in the summer.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday night’s trip to Millwall, Bruce confirmed that both players are expected back in training with the senior squad in the next two weeks – with Hooper’s return set for Wednesday.
He said: "Kieran Lee is still the same, really. He is a bit better. I had him in last week and things are doing to plan with him and Hooper and we are hoping Hooper is back into training on Wednesday.
“That is the first positive steps with him. Of course, he is still going to be a long time - when you have been out for 14 months. We hope Kieran will be in during the following week. Let's hope there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”
And Bruce revealed that game time with the under-23s squad will be essential as the pair look to get back to full match fitness, but careful management will be needed to prevent further setbacks.
"As an old doctor said to me many years ago - however long you are out, it take you that long to get back to where you really want to be and it is true. After being out for a year, yes you can get back on the pitch, but are you where you were?
“Sometimes, a bit like what has happens with Kieran Lee now, you get one injury and then something else happens, maybe because you are not running the right way and are out of balance and sync, it is a difficult task when someone has been out for so long.
"Forestieri is another one. He has had two or three big injuries and had back to back games now. It is important I look at him tomorrow and see.
“I would hate for him to play tired with a hamstring as it means you are in for an accident. It is something we will have to watch carefully.”
Both Lee and Hooper are out of contract at Hillsborough in the summer, which Bruce admits is a challenging situation for players who have been great servants to the club.
"It is a difficult one for them,” he said. “That is why I have said to them that we will be patient and give them every time that they need.
“Of course, it is always a worry when you are out of contract as a player, especially when you have had a serious injury. But thankfully, there is six months before the end of their contracts and it is an important time for them and us and we will see if we can help them.
“They have been two really good players for the club and I would be glad to see them back if they possibly can.”