Aston Villa central defender Martin Laursen is confident of receiving the green light to start on the comeback trail in mid-May after being sidelined for nearly eight months with a knee injury.
The Danish international will see world-renowned knee specialist Richard Steadman at the start of next month with a view to getting the all clear to start jogging and outdoor work.
David O'Leary's £3million capture from AC Milan in the summer of 2004 has been out of action since undergoing surgery in September.
Laursen has been sorely missed in a season of disappointment for Villa which has also seen fellow centre-backs Gary Cahill and Mark Delaney have long spells out through injury.
His only appearance was in the opening game of the campaign - a 2-2 draw with Bolton at Villa Park.
Laursen, who watched Villa's 5-0 defeat against Arsenal at Highbury on Saturday, said: 'I start jogging in mid-May - at least that is the plan. Before then, I have to go back to Colorado to see Dr Steadman at the beginning of May.
'If he says my knee is fine, which I think he will, then I will start to run and commence the outdoor work. I can't wait for that to happen because it has been a frustrating seven months.
'I am a footballer who wants to play football and if I can't do that then it's hard. But I have to accept that I have had major knee surgery and that it takes time to recover.'
Laursen insisted: 'I'm still really positive about things. I have done a lot of exercises to keep my muscles strong and I promise I will come back stronger than before and show I am capable of playing again at the very highest level.
'What has kept me going is just thinking about how big a thing it will be for me to return and play for Aston Villa again at Villa Park.'
O'Leary confirmed: 'The medical people have said to us that Martin is going to start jogging in May and we will see what effect that has.
'That's the way we have left it and we have no timetable as yet as to when Martin might be able to resume playing.'