James Milner has given Aston Villa manager David O'Leary a massive lift before Sunday's derby by reporting back for training with a clean bill of health.

O'Leary's side have suffered a nightmare run of six games without a win in the five-and-a-half weeks Milner has been sidelined with a

mystery virus. Since he pulled out just before kick-off at Blackburn Rovers on March 3, his absence has left a massive hole in Villa's main supply line.

Villa have scored only two goals in those six games, losing four of them. Following last weekend's injury to Lee Hendrie, O'Leary was understandably pinning his hopes on Milner's return.

It took only one training session for O'Leary to be persuaded that the on-loan Newcastle United winger had come back from his enforced break a day ahead of schedule and firing on all cylinders.

O'Leary said: "He was on fire when he came back to training today. He ate up all the work and it just makes a nonsense of all that rubbish about him having glandular fever.

"He's just a young lad who's played a lot of games at the same time as he got hit by a virus, which sapped his strength and it was just one of those things that some people recover from quickly and others take more time. It was Sod's law the way it worked out, that we lost him at a time when we really needed him but there's no doubt we're a better team when he's in the team and it will be great to have him back in the squad."

O'Leary can press ahead with his plan to extend the young Yorkshireman's stay by m aking his signing permanent.

However, he is sweating on skipper Olof Mellberg (hamstring), Gareth Barry (knee) and Hendrie (foot) for Sunday's matach.

Given that he no longer has in midfield the combative Eirik Bakke, who played such an important role in helping to win the physical battle and the match at St Andrew's in October, O'Leary is keen to have back Mellberg and vice-captain Barry.

O'Leary has been short at the back all season following injuries to Martin Laursen, Mark Delaney and now Mellberg.

That forced him to pick young Liam Ridgewell alongside greenhorn Gary Cahill against West Bromwich Albion last Sunday in daunting circumstances. A clean sheet was the result.

But O'Leary has distanced himself from speculation that he and his assistant, Roy Aitken, were at Molineux for Wolves' match with Coventry City last Saturday to watch home defender Joleon Lescott. It is understood that he had other targets in mind.