As he lay in hospital last December, the victim of a frenzied knife attack, only in his wildest dreams did Ronnie Wallwork think that he could play for West Bromwich Albion again this season.
But the midfield player has taken another significant step towards a first-team recall and auguries are good that he will make the most dramatic recovery of any player in Albion's history. They are calling it the Ronnie Wallwork miracle.
After seven stab wounds, a nine-hour operation and all the ensuing emotional scars, Wallwork feared that his career was finished. He could not have expected that, 84 days after that shocking incident in a Manchester nightclub, he would be playing for Albion's reserve team against Walsall at Tamworth.
Having played all but the final three minutes of stoppage-time, Wallwork looked every inch a player destined to rejoin Albion's bid for promotion.
His employers are optimistic. Mark Venus, assistant manager to Tony Mowbray, says Wallwork will have no physical problems in making a return to Coca-Cola Championship football.
Only Wallwork knows if there will be mental complications but Albion are impressed with his stoical attitude. "Ronnie feels good," Venus said. "He has trained for the past two weeks and, touch wood, there is no problem. I think he is enjoying running about in the fresh air and expanding his lungs and playing football again.
"We are all pushing him on, really; getting him back to work and getting on with normality for him. Will he play for the first team this season? He is certainly part of the squad.
"He needs to play more reserve games. He has certainly got the ability to get into the squad and on to the pitch. He has certainly got the talent and he is more than capable of playing in our team before the end of the season.
"Watching Ronnie train and work since that incident would suggest he is a similar player to the one before. I am sure there is nothing in there physically that makes it irreparable.
"How about mentally? I don’t know. How does anyone know how anyone is feeling? He’s had something happen in his life and how do people get over that?
"How would you get over that? Would you still be the same journalist? The bottom line is everyone has got to help him, give him the best environment. You’ve got to let him enjoy football again and make football the focus of his life."
If Venus resisted hyperbole where Wallwork is concerned, he was less restrained where Diomansy Kamara is concerned.
Kamara, who has been Albion's best player since the turn of the year and has scored 20 goals this season, has expressed a desire to leave at the end of the season — whether or not the team are promoted but Venus has urged Kamara to remain and become "an Albion legend".
Venus understands why any club would want to sign the Senegal international striker but wants to keep the player for at least ten years. "Diomansy is playing very well," Venus said. "If any other team is doing their homework, he should be a player who interests them.
"I hope there are players in other teams who we're interested in because they're good players. I'd like to keep him for the next ten years because I think he's an excellent footballer and if he can keep doing what he's doing, he could become a legend for West Brom. I have no doubts he is committed to the cause. Joe's right up there in the commitment stakes."
But Kamara was linked with AS Roma last summer and, while Albion could offer Premiership football next season, he wants to play in the Uefa Champions League.
Kamara was quoted as saying: "I'm not interested in staying even if they do go up. I've had contacts from two or three high-class clubs. "Jeremy Peace [chairman] has told me that he will let me leave if we don't go up. If we do, he will either offer me a new deal in June or let me go if a big club comes in. None of the biggest English sides have come forward. It's always been clubs on a similar level to West Brom. Reading were quite interested."