David Wheater is confident of being fit for Middlesbrough's season opener against Sheffield United.
It had been thought the talented defender could miss the start to the Championship season after undergoing keyhole surgery.
However, Wheater, who has been linked with a summer switch to Aston Villa, is confident of a speedy return.
The 22-year-old doubts he will play a big role in the club's pre-season friendlies, but remains confident of lining up against the Blades on 7th August.
"I think I should be able to join in with the rest of the squad around July 20," he told the Evening Gazette.
"I'll miss what the lads have to do when they come back on Monday but I'll have no problems catching them up.
"I don't know what will happen with the friendlies, but it's all about working on my fitness.
"I'm certain that I'll be ready for the first match against Sheffield United. In fact I think I'm ahead of schedule, which is great."
Meanwhile, Wheater believes Boro have a great chance of securing a swift Premier League return providing they can retain their key players.
The defender acknowledges it will not be an easy task battling it out for one of the top two automatic promotion places and has called for the team to hit the ground running.
"Nobody likes being relegated but you have to get on with it," he continued. "We just have to concentrate on trying to go straight back up again.
"If we keep as many players as we can, I think we have a great chance of doing it. We know that it's a tough league but we have players who can handle it.
"We can't think it's going to be easy in the Championship. We just have to take each game as it comes."