Phil Jagielka has moved a significant step closer to a first-team comeback after being out for six months following a cruciate knee injury.
The Everton and England defender suffered the injury against Manchester City in April and missed the Toffees' FA Cup final appearance at Wembley against Chelsea.
But the centre-back has at last been given permission this week to resume training with a football. Now Jagielka, 27, is expected to come into first-team contention by mid-November.
Everton head physio Mick Rathbone said: "We are very pleased with Phil and he is doing some good quality ball work now. When we talk about the recovery time from a cruciate injury the absolute minimum is six months.
"The surgeon will not let a player go into any type of contact work for at least six months then you have to add on time to build up fitness and play in a few reserve games. So you are looking at over seven months for a quick comeback."