Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham is ready to return for pre-season training ahead of schedule after several weeks' hard work of rehabilitation.
The 30-year-old left-back missed the final five matches of the club's maiden Barclays Premier League campaign with a back injury which required an operation at the end of April.
Higginbotham was not expected to be available for the early part of pre-season but he intends to report back on Thursday for the first day of training with a view to playing in one of Stoke's opening friendlies at either Newcastle Town or Nantwich Town on Sunday.
"Everything is fine now apart from a little bit of stiffness, but that's just 'pre-season pain' from all the running I've been doing," said the player, who has been working with physio Dave Watson.
"It's a relief to be sorted. When I had the operation, they told me I could be out for three months, so I'm the right side of that.
"If you miss pre-season then you are always playing catch-up and sometimes you don't make that up until towards the end of the season."
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