Alex McLeish is banking on Aleksandr Hleb being Birmingham City's talisman in the New Year.
Hleb has recovered from a hamstring tear, and a series of niggles sustained since his loan signing from Barcelona.
“He’s not quite close enough yet to a start,” said Blues boss McLeish. “He’s short of the top fitness and match practice as well.
"Last thing he needed after coming here half-fit anyway was an injury. But it was probably a result of him not being fully fit that he picked up these niggles.
"We hope that the conditioning he's had over the last couple of weeks will help him towards the next batch of games."
Hleb was starting to find his groove when he was last struck down, at the end of last month.
"It's been frustrating for both parties," said McLeish. "I don't know what Alex did in the summer, he was at Barcelona. But he was certainly behind the rest of the players when he came to the club, as well as missing out of two or three games for us - and he was a little bit miffed by that.
"I said to him that he wasn't fit and he'd risk injury. We trained him for a couple of weeks and, lo and behold, 65 minutes into the Fulham game he nicks his hamstring.
"We're quite experienced in the game and I think our trained eyes can see these things. Sometimes the players don't believe you or trust you but I'm sure he's learnt from that one and will be fully fit."
"Hopefully Alex will bring something to the table in the second-half of the season because he has got undoubted quality," McLeish added.
"You saw what he brought first-half of the Fulham game. We're looking for him to do that on a regular basis."