Dundee United frontman Nicky Clark is on course to make a remarkable return before the end of the season.
Clark (28) broke a bone in his left ankle during the Tangerines’ 4-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill on January 11 and subsequently had surgery.
That serious injury was expected to rule him out for the rest of this Championship campaign, with the blow only softened by the offer of a new contract to the former Dunfermline and Rangers player.
However, not only has Clark been able to take off his protective boot and walk unaided but it now looks as if he will be able to get game time before United close what they hope will be a title-winning campaign with a home match against Ayr on May 2.
Tangerines manager Robbie Neilson said: “We are hoping to get Nicky back before the end of the season.
“He has the protective boot off and is walking well.
“It would great for him and for us as a club if he can play again before the season ends.
“I am not sure how far ahead of schedule it would be but when they initially did the operation it was definitely going to be next season for him.
“The surgeon was really happy with how the op went and now it looks like it might be a return for him before the end of the season.
“We have missed him.
“He is different to what we’ve got, with Peter (Pawlett) playing a bit wider and deeper and Rakish (Bingham) right up to the line.
“Clarky plays just off the line which does make a difference to us.
“From his perspective, it is just about getting him back and fit.
“If he could get some game time earlier than expected then it would help him be absolutely ready for next season.
“If you have had an injury and don’t manage to play before the summer then you can still be worried about it going into pre-season.
“That is why it would be great to get Clarky out there as soon as possible. It would give everyone a lift.”
There was further good news for United with the confirmation that both Paul McMullan and Louis Appere will be available for Friday night’s home match against second-placed Inverness Caley Thistle.
Neilson said: “Paul has trained and will be available for Friday night, which is good.
“Louis Appere should also be all right as he has done a full training session.”
Meanwhile, United have welcomed American forward Joshua Perez to Tannadice.
The 22-year-old forward, who has featured in Italy’s Serie A with Fiorentina, has come over from the United States, where he latterly played with Los Angeles FC.
Perez played as a trialist in the reserve match against Morton and was joined by French-Tunisian winger Manoubi Haddad.