Defender Wilfred Bouma has admitted he could be back in action for Aston Villa before Christmas as he continues his rehabilitation from an ankle injury.
Bouma, who this week signed a new two year deal with a 12 month option, suffered the setback against Odense in the UEFA Cup in July.
The 30-year-old Dutch international will not rush back into action until he is completely recovered but has been encouraged by his doctor claiming a comeback before the New Year is a possibility.
Bouma said: "It's too early to set targets for my comeback. The doctor has told me if I am lucky I could play in December but I have to be patient.
"If I play in January, I will be happy. It's one step at a time.
"The plaster has come off. Gradually I can put some weight back on my foot and ankle. This is the start of a tough recovery but I am up to the challenge.
"Patience wasn't one of my best qualities at the start of my career but I am older now and more experienced. I will wait until it is right before I get the go-ahead to do more.''
Bouma continued: "The first 10 days were really painful. I was devastated but I realised I couldn't change anything. I couldn't go back in time. That's when I realised I had to look forward and be positive.
"I have never had a serious injury like this. I have had three months out twice before and that should stand me in good stead. You need to be patient to make sure you can come back stronger.''
Bouma has been encouraged by the messages of support he has received from Villa fans who have been won over by his consistent displays after an uncertain start to his career following a move from PSV Eindhoven.
He added: "The letters that have come into my mailbox at Aston Villa have been amazing. I haven't been able to reply yet but there's been a lot of letters.
"I am getting massive amounts of support and I seem to get lots of mail every day. Things like 'Freddy we want you back soon'. That's a massive boost for me.''