Paddy McNair is back in training at Sunderland and in line to make his first appearance in over 10 months next week.
The versatile 22-year-old has been out since last November after rupturing his cruciate ligament in a 3-0 win against Hull City.
But his long-term injury hell is coming to an end with the midfielder back training and he could feature against Hertha Berlin for the Under-23s in the Premier League International Cup at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday.
McNair suffered a setback in July which meant he missed the start of the season but he is closing in on a welcome first team return, providing a major boost to Sunderland boss Simon Grayson.
“Paddy is back training with us now,” revealed Grayson.
“The Under-23s play next week against Hertha Berlin, it might be that he is pencilled in for some part against Hertha Berlin. It would be a nice boost for us.
“I see him as a good addition to the squad in many different positions.
“Paddy will be the first to admit that he sees himself as a midfield player.
“He will be a good player in there because of his height, his strength and energy. That is what we need.”
The Northern Ireland international made nine Premier League appearances last season after arriving from Manchester United, former boss David Moyes bringing him to Wearside.
The midfielder, who represented his country at Euro 2016, had played in the back-to-back wins against Bournemouth and Hull before injury brought an early end to his campaign.
Grayson had been without McNair and fellow long-term knee injury victim Duncan Watmore for the start of the Championship campaign, with Watmore making his return as a sub against Preston North End.
Watmore continues to build his fitness, with striker Josh Maja also closing in on a return providing a very welcome fitness boost to struggling Sunderland, without a game this weekend due to the international break.
Joint top scorer George Honeyman, said: “It will be a big boost to get Dunc and Paddy back because they’re going to be two big players for us this year.”
First team coach Robbie Stockdale revealed that Maja is back running and taking part in some first team training sessions.
Maja, out since the friendly win over Bradford City in late July, could also feature against Hertha Berlin.