Jack Hobbs closes in on Hull City return
HULL City defender Jack Hobbs is on course to make his long-awaited return to action next month.
The 24-year-old took another stride back to full fitness this week when taking part in his first non-contact training sessions with team-mates.
Another four to six weeks of rehabilitation lies ahead for Hobbs but, after six months out with cruciate ligament damage, the defender is edging ever closer towards his expected comeback in late November.
Hobbs was an ever-present in City's defence last season until he suffered a fateful knee injury in the 2-0 home defeat to Coventry City on March 31.
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Surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament condemned the centre-half to between six and nine months on the sidelines, but his progress is providing encouragement for City's medical team.
"Jack has been back in non-contact training with the lads and it's great to see a smile back on his face," said assistant manager Steve Agnew.
"It's another step back and he's chuffed to bits you can tell.
"It'll still be a while before we see him in full contact training and maybe a good six weeks before he's back playing.
"We'd love to see him back as soon as possible but, as with any ACL injury, you have to be careful and take a few months before you're in full training."
A similar timescale has been set for fellow long-term absentee Tom Cairney.
Cairney has not played since he damaged knee ligaments in the League Cup defeat to Doncaster Rovers in August.
The Scotland under-21s midfielder travelled to London last week where he was given the green light to step up his comeback and he could join Hobbs in contention for the first team in either late November or early December.
City's ranks have been heavily hit by injuries in recent weeks but manager Steve Bruce will hope to see a steady trickle of his players returning over the next six weeks.
With James Chester (hamstring) and Alex Bruce (groin) both expected to be fit to face Ipswich after the international break on Saturday week, Joe Dudgeon (knee) is also hopeful of proving himself in time to feature against the struggling Tractor Boys.
One player likely to take a more patient approach is sidelined captain Robert Koren. The Slovenian playmaker suffered a calf strain 24 hours before City's game with Sheffield Wednesday and he appears unlikely to be in a position to resume full training next week.
With a trip to Middlesbrough on October 23 followed quickly by an away game at Bristol City on October 27, City will be against pushing Koren back unduly to face Ipswich in nine days.
"Robbie's much better," said Agnew. "It's not as severe as we first thought it was and we'll keep an eye on it.
"I would say it's highly unlikely he'll be available for the Ipswich game but we'll wait and see."