Hull City midfielder Ryan Mason is targeting a 2018 comeback as he continues his recovery from a horror head injury.
The 26-year-old suffered a fractured skull after a collision with Chelsea defender Gary Cahill during a Premier League match in January this year, and has been sidelined since.
With most of his rehabilitation work behind him, Mason admits that his time on the sideline was becoming a wearisome wait.
"Physically I'm fit. I'm just waiting for the skull to fuse together and heal. As soon as that happens, hopefully, I'm good to go and return to the pitch,” said Mason, speaking on Premier League Daily.
"I'm at the stage where it's getting a little bit frustrating because I've been physically fit and ready to go for the last two or three months.
"The skull isn't ready though and I have to respect that. It's a bit of a waiting game at the moment but I'm optimistic I'll be back playing soon.
"It's so difficult to put a timeframe on it. It's such a unique injury that nobody really knows how it's going to heal.”
There is some hope however, with Mason set to have scans early in the new year which should give the defender some idea of how much longer he’ll have to spend out of the game.
"It's not something you can take risks with,” said Mason. “It's quite an important part of the body so it's a waiting game, but I'm optimistic."
Petr Cech is a player who knows exactly what Mason is going through, after he suffered a similar injury playing for Chelsea back in 2006.
"I think we're going to go along the line of getting some sort of head protection like Petr wears,” Mason said.
“Obviously it was a nasty injury and I think the surgeons want me to have that added protection, for my peace of mind and my family's too.
"Having something over the injured area would probably be the sensible thing to do. It's been no secret how good Petr was with me and my family.”
The Czech goalkeeper has been a bastion of support for Mason, reaching out immediately after his injury to offer hope to him and his family.
"He chased us up and reassured us everything we were going through was to be expected with that kind of injury,” Mason said.
"Initially I was just thankful I was still alive because it was such a serious injury that could have been a lot worse.
"I wasn't even thinking about playing football again. It was just a case of being able to walk and live a normal life.
"The things he's gone on to achieve in his career after his incident is obviously something to look up to."I'm in a good way mentally and I don't think it's going to be a problem to get back out there and returning to play."