MANAGER Russell Martin admits Jack Stephens is still a “bit of time away” from a return despite his recovery being “on track”.
The 29 year old was forced off with a calf concern during the August 26 victory over QPR, going on to lose their next four matches without him.
Stephens was estimated to miss around eight matches but has finally been pictured back on grass by the club’s social media team almost 11 weeks later.
Jan Bednarek and Taylor Harwood-Bellis have stepped up to plug the hole left by the skipper’s absence, picking up clean sheets in wins over Stoke City and Millwall.
Asked for an update on Stephens, Martin told the Daily Echo: “The guys put out a nice video of him returning to the grass and it really is just a step in his rehab, but it is a big step for sure.
“It is going to take a bit of time still for him. The timescale hasn’t changed really, it was probably 10-12 weeks from his injury against QPR (to get back on grass)
“We will hopefully still be looking for that and are still on track with that. He has been amazing with his commitment to work in his rehab.”
He added: “Every time I see him, he’s dripping in sweat. I don’t know if he has been splashing his face with water because he knows I’m coming.
“He is a big character and the team really missed him, the team really suffered for four or five games but, fortunately, we got through that.
“Others have really stepped up but he was a huge loss in that period. One of the big reasons we couldn’t get going again was losing him.
“His courage on the ball, his voice on the pitch, and his energy was a big loss for us so I’m really looking forward to getting him back.
“At some point, we will have a real headache in his position because we’ve got some really top players as options if we can keep everyone fit.”