JIMMY Phillips could give Burton Albion boss Gary Rowett a late Christmas present by returning to action.
The 23-year-old winger is thought to be only two weeks away from resuming his career after a seven-month injury ordeal.
The former Stoke City trainee is due to return to full training over the festive period and could have his first outing of the season early in the New Year.
Phillips has been sidelined since breaking a metatarsal in his foot in a freak training ground accident in pre-season.
Rowett said: “We thought Jimmy might be out for two or three weeks but the injury unexpectedly turned out to be lot worse and a lot more complicated than it seemed.
“It was a really innocuous accident at the time because it happened while we were doing some running in pre-season.
“It’s been a difficult time for Jimmy because he ended up having an operation and then having his foot in a pot for months on end.
“But he’s finally getting there and it’s nice to think that he could give us a another attacking option in the not-too-distant future.
“He’s started taking part in warm-ups and I think it’s only a matter of a short time now before he trains properly.”
Phillips has been provisionally pencilled in for a return to action in a reserve team game at Wrexham on January 15.
The Potteries-born forward is one of only five players with Albion in their four seasons as a Football Legaue club.
Big things were expected of him when he was snapped up by Rowett’s predecessor Paul Peschisolido in July, 2009.
But inconsistent form followed by this year’s injury lay-off have resulted in his potential remaining unfulfilled.
However, Rowett is known to be an admirer and gave Phillips a lengthy run in the team during his spell as caretaker manager at the end of last season.
The Brewers boss said: “I think Jimmy was looking forward to this season because he felt he had something to prove and it’s great shame that the injury has held him back for so long.”
Phillips has made 90 appearances for the Brewers - more than a third of which have been from the bench.
The winger’s impending return unfortunately coincides with what will be an increasingly lengthy spell on the sidelines for young striker Adi Yussuf.
The former Leicester City youngster broke into Albion’s side at the start of the season, but has seen little match action since mid-October because of a groin problem.
Yussuf celebrated his comeback with a goal in a reserve team game at Tranmere Rovers at the end of last month - only to break down minutes later with a recurrence of the injury.
Now he has been advised he will need surgery to cure the problem.
Meanwhile, Rowett is “awaiting developments” in respect of recent loan signings Jordan Chapell and Jacob Blyth.
Chapell was recalled by Sheffield United two weeks ago for a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie and the Bramall Lane club have not yet indicated whether they intend to loan out the winger again in January.
Promising striker Blyth is technically on loan with Albion until January 6, but is back at Leicester after picking up a groin injury playing for their development squad.
Rowett said: “Leicester allowed Jacob to join us on a youth loan, which permits them to play him in under-21 games.
“Unfortunately, he then picked up the injury which probably means he won’t be available to us again during the period of this current loan.
“He’s a Leicester player and since we play them in the FA Cup on January 5 that effectively takes us through to the end of his loan.
“We’ll monitor his situation, as well as that of Jordan, but it’s impossible to say at this stage whether we will see either player again.”