David Dunn came through his first competitive game since Boxing Day as he played for Birmingham-City's reserves for 45 minutes last night.
The England international has been plagued with hamstring problems since he arrived from Blackburn Rovers in July 2003 and had a back operation to try to cure his problems towards the end of last season.
Dunn was put through his paces for the first half of Birmingham's 2-0 win over Everton and his performance was praised by reserve-team manager Keith Bertschin.
" David looked good although he tired after 25 minutes, which was to be expected as he hasn't played for such a long time," said the former Birmingham striker.
"But he put in a really good shift and I am sure the manager [Steve Bruce] will have been pleased with his efforts.
"It is too early to say whether he will be in the frame for a place on the bench against Aston Villa on Sunday, but he worked very hard."
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Dunn suffered a serious recurrence of a hamstring injury on December 26, 2004. He wondered if there would be light at the end of the tunnel but now, after ten months of frustration, he can plan the rest of his career.
"Hopefully, I've done everything I need to do to get back playing," Dunn said yesterday afternoon. "Through everything, the boss has been there for me and that is another reason why I want to come back. The team's results have not been too good recently.
"Hopefully, I can come back and repay some of the faith that the manager has shown in me and the way he has stood by me and start repaying him on the pitch. Hopefully, I'll be on the bench against Villa."
Another player who did his chances no harm last night was young midfielder Neil Kilkenny. Bertschin singled out his contribution and Kilkenny had a hand in both Birmingham goals.
He capped an excellent solo run by scoring the first goal of the evening and then his shot was parried into the path of Sam Alsop to complete the scoring. n Martin Grainger's testimonial match will take place at St Andrew's on Wednesday November 9 (7.45pm). The left back, who was forced to retire through injury last season after a distinguished career with Birmingham, will lead an All-Star team to face his former club.
Grainger's line-up will include former Birmingham players such as: Andrew Johnson, Geoff Horsfield, Michael Johnson, Ian Bennett, Dele Adebola, Martin O'Connor, Jon McCarthy, Paul Furlong, Paul Devlin, Jerry Gill, Paul Tait and Kevin Poole. The team will be managed by Barry Fry.
Trevor Francis will also make a special appearance.
Celebrities from television and music will also guest on what is likely to be a memorable occasion.
Grainger signed for Birmingham from Brentford, for £400,000, in March 1996. made 266 appearances for Birmingham, scoring 28 goals and was particularly useful with free-kicks from the edge of the penalty area.
He was a League Cup finalist in 2001 and a First Division play-off winner in 2002. He made only 13 Premiership appearances in two seasons before his retirement.
Admission to the game will be £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. Arrangements for the sale of tickets will be released in due course.