Newcastle striker Michael Owen could be back in action within a fortnight after handing manager Sam Allardyce a major boost.
The 27-year-old has returned from his trip to Germany with good news and looks like being ready to play again long before Christmas.
Allardyce said: 'Michael is back from Germany and coming forward a lot quicker than we thought, and we will hopefully have him back well before Christmas.'
Owen flew out to to consult top specialist Hans-Wilhelm Muller Wohlfahrt within days of tearing a thigh muscle in England's 1-0 friendly victory in Austria on November 16.
It was initially thought the £17million man could be sidelined for up to six weeks, and although neither he nor his manager are setting any specific date for his return, the most optimistic noises emanating from St James' Park have hinted he could make the Barclays Premier League clash with Birmingham on December 8.
That would be timely for Allardyce - whose response to reports that new Wigan boss Steve Bruce would target the England international was 'I wouldn't think so' - as he attempts to turn the club's season around.
Saturday's 3-0 home trouncing by Liverpool saw the Toon Army round on their manager just 15 games into his reign, and they head for Blackburn this weekend having taken just one point from the last 12 on offer.
Allardyce, who was at Anfield last night to watch Porto's Portugal international defender Bruno Alves, remains calm about his situation.
He is well aware he faces a challenge, even if his sights are set more on a longer-term mission, and knows only time will allow him to prove his worth.
He said: 'It's a tough challenge by the fact so much needs to be done and you've got to make sure you get some time to do it.
'Obviously, on the surface it's all about the first-team players and results, but realistically, it lies much deeper than that in terms of developing the infrastructure.
'I can't do a job, other than by doing it the right way.
'The right way is to try to be successful over a period of time. You want it to be sustainable over a period of time, and not just a flash in the pan.'
To illustrate his point, Allardyce cited Derby's decision to part with manager Billy Davies following their traumatic start to life in the top flight.
He said: 'You have got Billy Davies, who has got to be one of the best managers in this country without any shadow of a doubt, who has taken a football club from 17th in the Championship to promotion through the play-off final in one year.
'Within 14 games of taking Derby into the Premier League, he's been sacked by his new chairman.
'Is there anything more ridiculous than that? I haven't seen anything like that for a long, long time.
'He's been a victim of his own success. He's made Derby County into a team it shouldn't have been, and because he's done it too quickly, and because it couldn't be sustained as he didn't have enough time or money to purchase the sort of players he's needed, he has lost his job.
'If you look at the overall view, Billy Davies had very little chance of staying in the Premier League.
'It wasn't his fault - he should have been able to bring them back again.
'Unfortunately, he's fallen foul of the fact he didn't get the sort of millions that Sunderland, Wigan and Fulham have put into their sides, and all of a sudden he's lost his job.'