Phil Jagielka has moved a significant step closer to a first-team comeback after being out for six months following a cruciate knee injury.
The Everton and England defender suffered the injury against Manchester City in April but has at last been given permission this week to resume training with a football.
Now Jagielka, 27, is expected to come into first-team contention by mid-November, with Everton head physio Mick Rathbone saying: "We are very pleased with Phil and he is doing some good quality ball work now."
He added: "When we talk about the recovery time from a cruciate injury the absolute minimum is six months.
"The surgeon will not let a player go into any type of contact work for at least six months then you have to add on time to build up fitness and play in a few reserve games. So you are looking at over seven months for a quick comeback."
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