David Dunn has spent three months in bed and is hating every second of it. But the days of torture are, mercifully, drawing to a close.

The Birmingham City midfield player has not played since December 26 and has not walked since undergoing surgery for a back problem in January.

Few men have suffered as many injury problems as Dunn, but even fewer can look forward to the future with so much optimism.

When he returns to the training pitch, probably at the start of June, he will appear slimmer, fitter, and more mentally strong than at any time in his career. In one sense, his career is starting all over again.

The back problem has, bizarrely, manifested itself in Dunn's right hamstring. He has limped out of important Premiership matches on at least three occasions over the past two years and has never enjoyed the luxury of a long run-out in the team.

If he did not feel so privileged at being a football player, he would feel cursed.

Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, seems to be absorbing much of Dunn's mental pain.

"Dunn has lost a stoneanda-half in weight but his progress is supposed to be good," Bruce said. "He saw a specialist last week and he is quite pleased with the way the operation has gone.

"He has still got a few weeks on his back which will total three months in bed. It is scary stuff.

"The overall plan is to have Dunn in action for the start of next season. We knew he was going to be a seven-month job. That is why we took the decision [to operate on his back] when we did.

"It will be like having two new players if Dunn and Muzzy Izzet [Birmingham midfield player] are fit and raring to go again in the summer. It will be a big boost to everyone concerned.

"With Dunn, we have seen every specialist from here to eternity. I do not think that the kid would have had such a huge operation if there was any doubt about it being a success.

"One would hope that this has cured his problem."

Dunn, aged 25, still has international aspirations and Bruce believes that the midfield player can still form part of the England squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

One man who has already tasted World Cup action is Izzet, who played for Turkey in the 2002 tournament in Korea and Japan. Since joining Birmingham from Leicester in the summer of 2004, however, the Turkey international midfield player has been as luckless with injuries as has Dunn. But here, too, there is optimism.

"Muzzy has been doing a lot of training and a lot of mileage," Bruce said. "You'd think he was training for the London Marathon at the moment.

"He has worked extremely hard [yesterday] and has had no reaction, which is excellent because even if he gets himself fit now it is whether we rush him in or not.

"It would be nice if we could get him some sort of competitive game even for his own peace of mind. He has had a hard season in terms of injuries. We have not put him into a training session yet but he is on the odd of stepping into it. He ran for an hour and a half [yesterday]."

Izzet, aged 30, has not played since Birmingham lost

1-0 at home to Everton on November 13. It is not a date on which he looks back with relish: he was sent off for deliberate handball.

Birmingham play away to Everton tomorrow and Bruce, inevitably, has more injury problems with which to contend. Jamie Clapham, the left back, injured his foot during the 3-0 defeat away to Manchester City two nights ago and will not make the trip to Goodison Park. Mario Melchiot, the right back, is also struggling.

"Clapham will not make it," Bruce said. "He has got eight stitches in a badly-cut foot. He definitely won't play.

"We have got a doubt over Melchiot, with his hamstring strain, and Matthew Upson, with his knee, but I expect them to be okay. Julian Gray will have a late fitness test on his calf."