West Bromwich Albion were today boosted by the news that midfielder George Thorne should return to competitive action next week.
The 20-year-old has not featured since rupturing a cruciate knee ligament against Everton in January in what was only his fourth start for the Baggies.
But, after a long battle back to fitness, he returned to full training two weeks ago. Thorne now expects to be part of the under-21 side when they face Arsenal next Thursday.
“The plan is for me to play a game or two in the under-21s,” he said.
“There’s a match against Arsenal next week and I could play 45 minutes or an hour in that. We’ll see what response I get from that. Touch wood, everything will be fine after that.”
He added: “I’m about two weeks away from being in contention for a place in a squad.
“I’d need a run of appearances before I will feel back where I was.
“That’s the way these injuries are and you have to deal with that.”
Thorne, a youth team product, spent the early part of last season on loan at Portsmouth and had just broken into the first team at the Hawthorns when he suffered his injury.
And he hinted of a possible return to the first team for the upcoming Capital One Cup clash with the Gunners, should the under-21 games go well.
“It’s a possibility but I’ll have to sit down with the head coach and discuss it,” he said. “It depends what he wants to do in terms of his squad.
“He’s made it very clear he wants to push for a cup this season. We’ll have a sit down and have a think about it after I’ve played the under-21s game next week. We’ll take things one game at a time.”