Stoke striker Mamady Sidibe is edging closer to a first-team return after six months out with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
The 29-year-old, who twisted his knee in a reserve-team warm-up at Aston Villa in March, hopes to begin some ball work next week with a view to a competitive comeback next month.
"Hopefully, in about 10 days, I will start touching a football again,'' he said. "I cannot wait because that is a big moment for any footballer when you come back from injury. It means you are getting well again.
"Then maybe I train with the rest of the team by the end of the month.''
The Mali international scored three goals in 17 Premier League starts last season but knows there is greater competition now with James Beattie, Ricardo Fuller and Dave Kitson all vying for places up front.
Despite his desperation for a return to action, Sidibe insists he will not come back too soon.
"I know I must not rush it. What is another two or three weeks when you have been out for six months?'' he told the The Sentinel. "The specialist said six months at the start of the injury, so hopefully I will be playing a reserve game in October if all goes well.
"Sometimes, when you watch a game, you start thinking you might come back earlier but I know I cannot take that risk.''