Ashington FC striker Damien Stevens is ahead of schedule with his rehabilitation programme and has pencilled in a return to action by the end of next month.
If he achieves his target it will be an amazing turnaround for the Guide Post-based player who suffered horrific injuries in early September during the Colliers Ebac Northern League first division match against Penrith, which was subsequently abandoned.
Stevens had given his side the lead but only five minutes later was writhing in agony after an accidental 50-50 clash with Cumbrians keeper Jonny Jamieson.
The following day Stevens underwent an operation on a broken patella.
He remained positive and upbeat since having surgery and initially vowed to make a comeback next season, but the Ashington-born player has now targeted an earlier return.
A buoyant Stevens – who celebrates his 25th birthday on Thursday – said: “I am taking things as they come but I’m working out in the gym most days in order to build my thigh up.
“When I achieve that goal, and providing I get the green light from the consultant, I will return to full training, but I’m already ahead of schedule.
“After that I will be striving to reach to another level to attain match fitness, and if everything goes to plan I hope to be back in the squad by the end of February.
“I have had no reaction to striking a ball and things are going along really, really well.
“I consider myself to be lucky because had I suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury then things would have been a lot worse.
“I cannot wait to get back playing because I am missing scoring goals for my home town team.”
Stevens, who before the injury had been in a rich vein of form, added: “Hopefully I can pick up where I left off.”
Ashington FC head coach Ian Skinner said: “It’s fantastic and a joy to have Damien back in the group over the last couple of weeks as he works hard on his fitness to build muscles back up in his knee.
“He is on track and has got a personal plan to make sure he comes back fit and strong.
“However, whilst we will be taking no risks with him after the severity of his injury and might have to keep the reins on him, we need to be careful not to dampen his enthusiasm and positivity.”