With their Championship season about to go into overdrive Birmingham City have been boosted by the return to training of a raft of first-team players.
Steve Bruce's men start an exacting programme of seven matches in three weeks when they visit Luton Town tomorrow and they will be buoyed by the news that playmaker David Dunn could be fit to make his comeback at Kenilworth Road.
Dunn is the most high-profile of group of four returnees that also includes Stephen Clemence, Martin Taylor and Bruno N'Gotty - the latter having completed a three-game suspension.
He is also the most important of the quartet holding the keys to unlock most defences in the division and - before he hurt his calf two weeks ago - having begun to resemble the creative force that persuaded Bruce to part with #5.5 million in the summer of 2003.
But his positive start to the campaign was interrupted by a knock he suffered in training before the draw with Leicester City. although the recent international break limited the number of matches he missed, his absence was acutely felt in the dour stalemate with the Foxes that saw Birmingham fail to win for the third game running.
However, the Birmingham manager is mindful of rushing back a player with Dunn's injury record particularly during such an intensive period.
Speaking after watching the midfielder train for the first time in a couple of weeks, Bruce said he would exercise caution with his prize asset but also suggested the 26-year-old could feature at Luton. "He will train again tomorrow [Friday] and I will make a late assessment on him after that," Bruce said. "I have got to make sure with his history that he is 100 per cent.
"He hasn't done anything since his injury before the Leicester game and we have got six games in the next three weeks. I think he could be involved, whether he will start is another thing."
Clemence has also reentered the fray for the first time in three weeks and will come into contention in central midfield with Bruce likely to rest loan player Fabrice Muamba who played twice in three-game tournament for England Under 19s.
Taylor is also back to challenge Radhi Jaidi and N'Gotty for a place at the heart of the Blues defence, though N'Gotty and Jaidi are the preferred partnership with Bruce craving consistency in his defensive rear-guard.
"I want to make sure that the one area we are solid is our back four," he said. "I have played seven or eight different back fours which is not healthy - I played 30-odd last year - when the one area of the pitch where you are looking to be rock solid with people who have played
together and know each other is defence.
"You work as a unit and unfortunately we have been hampered. It is the one area where I would love to have N'Gotty and Jaidi and have the introduction of Matthew Upson.
"They have played in the
Premier League but they have found a huge difference with the ball being thrown at you more often than it does up there. That's no disrespect to them but they have to play and match it."
Further up the pitch Mikael Forssell is likely to start on the bench having
played for more than an hour of Finland's match in Kazakhstan. That could mean a second league start for Cameron Jerome.
Meanwhile, winger Nick Wright has joined League One side Bristol City on a month's loan and is in the squad for tomorrow's game
against Crewe Alexandra. "He did particularly well in the first half of the reserves game and Bristol City rang the following morning," Bruce said. "He has pace in abundance and he is one of those who can get you off your seat and do the unexpected. It will do him the world of good."