Coventry City captain Stephen Hughes has expressed his hope that he will be able to play first-team football before the end of the season as his injury nightmare nears its end.
The former Arsenal and Everton midfielder has missed the last three-anda-half months with an Achilles problem but has returned to light training and wants to play in at least one of Coventry's nine remaining Champion-ship matches.
But the 29-year-old has refused to commit himself to an actual return date preferring instead to concentrate on building up his fitness by perhaps playing in a second-team game first. Any sort of action will be welcome for Hughes who had his recovery delayed by a mis-diagnosis and wronglyadministered injection.
"The only form of treatment was to rest it and let nature take its course, which obviously takes time," said Hughes, who has played only 16 games this season.
"The manager has been brilliant and allowed me to have that time to recover and hopefully this is the end of it.
"I started running last week and hope to join in with the lads in the coming weeks and maybe even get a reserve game in but I don't want to put a timescale on it yet.
"The main thing is that I am running pain-free and feel confident about making a comeback. I can't afford to rush it. It would be nice to think I could get a few games in before the end of the season although I have had a lot of time off and need to do quite a bit of fitness work."
But even a speedy recovery would not guarantee an automatic return to the first team as Hughes recognises the impact veteran Dennis Wise has had on the club's season.
Struggling to get away from the relegation zone before the former England international arrived, City are secure in mid-table - much to the credit of Wise and his midfield deputy Michael Doyle.
"I know full well that I may have to bide my time because Dennis Wise and Michael Doyle are doing a terrific job in midfield," Hughes said. "I have watched a fair few of the games while I have been out injured and 'Wisey' has scored some great goals while 'Doyler's' game has come on."