Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish has praised forward James McFadden for the way he has approached his recovery from a long-term knee injury.
The 27-year-old Scotland international has been sidelined since mid-September, amid fears that he would not play again this season.
However, an upbeat McLeish told the Birmingham Mail: "What's really helped him is the condition he came back in in the summer. He's probably his leanest ever and his fittest ever.
"He had that psychological first whole Premier season last year, which I'm sure would have enhanced his confidence and his all-round physical and mental strength.
"I just had a good feeling about James before he was struck down this season so cruelly.
"He's training well. He's kept himself in good shape and all that helps in the recovery of a player from injury. You've got to credit the player for his discipline.
"The progress he's made, you're thinking 'wow, he's going to be quick, back before Christmas'.
"But you have to be careful and put the reins on a wee bit and let the surgery heal properly."