HE HASN'T made a first team appearance for more than five months but Richie Barker believes Kyle McFadzean is just days away from finally being fit.
The defender was struck down by flu in November and after initially attempting to play through the illness, has not played Crawley Town's 2-0 defeat to Crewe Alexandra on November 24.
But Reds manager Barker revealed at Monday night's fans forum that McFadzean is ten days away from a return.
"Without getting too many hopes up, I think if the season was ten days longer you would probably see him against but unfortunately I think we are going to miss out by a little bit of time," the manager said. "He is going away to St George's Park, the new FA centre, next week to do a few more test with a couple of top FA sports scientists. He was there for a couple of days last week and their results were pretty good.
"Unfortunately, we probably are about ten days out from him being involved. We made the decision maybe a week ago that we could either take the risk and try to get him involved in something this season, or maybe move him back a week or two but be even more certain that he will be fit for the first day or next season."
And after five months of resting, Barker admits the 26-year-old is raring to go for the new season.
"I'd have to say at the minute, without putting too much pressure on him, he is the best we have seen him for a long, long time," Barker said.
"He is fairly upbeat himself at the moment because obviously the lad has missed playing football.
"I don't know the figures but it is something like a one in a million chance that he has started with flu and ended up with what he ended up with. It's massively unfortunate.
"But he has improved over the last couple of weeks and he will be good as new for pre-season."