Gareth Barry is edging ever closer to a return to first-team action.
The dependable England international's calming influence on the midfield has been sorely missed over the past month, but with 125 minutes’ action under his belt for the EDS, he expects to return sooner rather than later.
“I’ve had two outings with the Elite Development Squad now – 45 minutes against Middlesbrough and 80 against Liverpool and I felt a lot better in the second game so things are progressing nicely,” he said.
“I had a double hernia operation which meant an initial four weeks out, but then I tore a muscle in rehab which set me back a little bit, but I don’t think I’m too far off now - touch wood! I’m just taking things one day at a time but I’m feeling quite strong again which is really good.”
After a hitch in his hernia recovery, Gareth is understandably reluctant to target a specific game to aim for and is instead happy to be advised by the experts.
“The medical team and sports therapists will have a discussion, though I’m not asking too many questions," he said. "I had a comeback date prior to the muscle tear, but things don’t always go to plan.
“This is the longest period of my career that I’ve been sidelined with injury and the comeback game against Middlesbrough was my first match for three-and-a-half months.
“Being out so long does give you time to think about things and it makes me realise how lucky I’ve been in terms of injuries and the amount of games I’ve played throughout my career.
“I’ve been training with the first team for a fortnight now and getting back into the swing of things again.
“I’m not a good spectator and I don’t enjoy watching the games – I’d much rather be out there playing so I’m obviously really looking forward to getting my season off and running again.”