Steve Bruce can see light at the end of the tunnel but it is likely to come from a candle rather than from a beacon. Certainly there is unlikely to be any sunshine at St Andrew's for the time being.
The Birmingham City manager has seen Mikael Forssell and David Dunn return to action - the two performed well in the 2-0 victory against Torquay Unted in the FA Cup on Tuesday - and is hopeful of signing Jason Euell from Charlton Athletic.
With Emile Heskey and Chris Sutton match-fit, Bruce can spend the next three months ensuring that Birmingham maintain their Premiership status.
It will not be easy. The team are second-to-bottom and recently lost to Charlton. With Portsmouth, West Bromwich Albion and Everton all enjoying something of a renaissance, Bruce knows that Birmingham must put their own house in order rather than rely on the failings of other clubs.
And money is tight.
If the performance in the FA Cup third-round replay against Torquay was nervous, Bruce could still emphasise the positives.
Bruce said: "The big plus for me is that Mikael came through his fourth 90 minutes of the season, and David Dunn came through his fourth 90 minutes in something like two years.
"We can see the reemergence of two leading players for us. We hope they can stay injury-free and we are certainly due that bit of luck. Those two players in any team will make a hell of a difference. It is really like having two new players to pick from.
"Mikael could have scored four. The effort where he hit the post was classic Mikael Forssell. He'll never lose that ability. Unfortunately, he has been blighted with a horrible knee injury but we hope he is over that.
"Emile got a severe whack on the knee at Charlton but he declared himself fit for selection, which we are delighted about."
Bruce is set to step up his efforts to sign Euell from Charlton. Birmingham have only three senior strikers - Heskey, Forssell and Sutton - and will lament the departure of Walter Pandiani to Espa?ol if Euell does not arrive at St Andrew's.
Bruce said: "If Emile had been seriously injured our plight would have been even more desperate in trying to find a striker. I've got to weigh up my options. I couldn't have been seen to be diving into the market if Emile was going to be missing for two or three months.
"We haven't got great pots of money. I can probably bring one player in and I've got to make sure it is the right one.
"If he had been out for two or three months, and with Mikael Forssell the way he is and having just brought Chris Sutton in, then having three strikers is not that healthy.
"But we are not awash with great pots of money. I've got to be careful. There is probably room to add one
player to the squad so I've got to be extra careful that, when I spend that money, it's the right player for the squad."
Forssell scored 19 goals for Birmingham during a loan spell from Chelsea two years ago but has been laid low with a serious knee problem for the best part of a year.
More recently a thigh injury has restricted his contribution.
But there were signs when he came on as a substitute against Charlton last weekend that Forssell was regaining his touch. He performed well against Torquay.
The news is not so encour-aging concerning Martin Taylor. The defender could be struggling to be fit for the match at home to Portsmouth on Satuday after suffering ankle and leg injuries against Torquay. He will undergo a scan.
Forssell could barely contain his delight on Tuesday, having made his first start for Birmingham since the match against Everton on October 29. "It is nice to get a goal," he said. "I've come a long way and I've worked hard but there is still a long way to go and I know I just have to keep working hard and keep going.
"I feel I am getting closer to full sharpness. I had a minor setback and was out for six or seven weeks and came back for just one or two substitute's appearances.
"It has been a bit disappointing but these are the things you can't change. You just have to keep on going and I know if I stay fit I know the goals are coming. As long as I am fit, I can score goals.
"I am getting the balls into my feet. Jermaine Pennant played a great game, putting crosses in, and I had a lot of good movement and I am getting into the goalscoring positions for the chances.
"I could have had a few goals. I was a bit unlucky with the shot that hit the post and a few just didn't come off but as long as I am trying and getting into those positions, there is no problem.
"It is a long time since my last start, against Everton in October, but I have to say that the way I've been coming back I am proud of myself because I have been working really hard and it is very difficult when you get setbacks. You just want to play without any problems.
"The most important thing is that my knee is very good now. I have no problems with it. I can do everything and that's the main thing. If I get small niggles here and there, it's disappointing, but I'm getting there. The more I play and train, I know I will get fit and stay fit.
"I've got a great week of training before tonight. You always have small demons in your head and especially if you don't get to train. The last time I came back for the Manchester City game, it was too much, too early. I had trained with the team just once." ..SUPL: