Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has revealed that Steven Fletcher has made significant progress towards completing his rehabilitation and rejoining the first team after injury.
The Scot has been sidelined since sustaining ankle ligament damage whilst on international duty in late March and the Italian has warned he will not be rushed back into action before his recovery is complete.
"His improvement has surprised everybody – we are happy, but more importantly he is happy and excited," the Black Cats boss told the club's official website.
"We don’t have to [take a] risk. It would be silly to anticipate a time. We won’t force it just because we see improvement, because another injury now could put him out for longer; it would be stupid."
However, Di Canio is confident that Fletcher is not too far away from a return to action although he expects him to miss the opening weeks of the new campaign.
"In a few weeks, maybe we can see Fletcher in action. We will keep our fingers crossed. He and the staff have done a very good job; we have handled the situation very well," he added.
"We expect to see him in the next few weeks. I can’t say two, three or four – we will see."
Sunderland kick off their Premier League campaign on Saturday with a visit from Martin Jol's Fulham.