HULL CITY’S push for the Premier League could receive a timely lift with the surprise return of Matty Fryatt during the run-in.
Last season’s top scorer was expected to be out until next term after undergoing surgery on his troublesome Achilles in August.
However, manager Steve Bruce has revealed that the striker may be available for the final month of the Championship campaign after returning to training.
The Tigers’ chief said: “Matty is ahead of schedule and it is looking good. He has been back training, and done a lot of running and work in the gym.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel for him. It is a long dark road when you are working your socks off in rehabilitation every day. It is your worst nightmare as a footballer.
“But Matty is tough mentally and we hope he can come through the final stages now. We are looking at the next 10 days, when we will hopefully see him back in full training.”
Fryatt, whose only action this term came against Rotherham United in the Capital One Cup first round, netted 16 times in the Championship last season – a tally that represented more than a third of the club’s entire goal output.
The 26-year-old’s absence this time around has cast something of a shadow over Hull, who despite sitting third in the table have scored substantially less goals than the rest of the top five.
Watford, for instance, have netted 22 more times than Hull, which explains why Gianfranco Zola’s side sit in the second automatic promotion place despite having the same number of points as the East Riding club.
Fourth-placed Crystal Palace, meanwhile, have scored 14 more than Hull’s 46, while Leicester City (with 56) and leaders Cardiff City (55) have also proved more deadly in front of goal.
Fryatt’s potential involvement, therefore, could be a major boost for Hull during the run-in.
Asked if it was possible to put a timescale on the return of last season’s top scorer, Bruce replied: “It is difficult, though what I will say is something that I always say when asked about a player coming back from long-term injury.
“When we break up for pre-season, we are usually off for around seven weeks. We then have six weeks and around seven games to prepare the players during pre-season. That shows what is required to get players up to speed.
“What will help Matty is that he is a naturally fit lad.
“I won’t force him or rush him, but it would be a big bonus if we could have him in and around the squad for the last month or so.
“One thing I will make sure of is that he’s ready. You can’t mess around with Achilles tendon injuries.”
Fryatt’s potential early return to action will be welcomed by fans. It will, though, be tempered by the news that Sone Aluko’s season looks to be over.
The summer signing from Rangers, arguably one of the success stories of the Championship during the first half of the campaign, has not played since the December 29 win over Leeds due to suffering a small tear in his Achilles.
He returned to training earlier this month after a period of rest, but felt discomfort and could now undergo surgery. Aluko was in London earlier this week to undergo a scan that will dictate what course of action the club decide to take in order to solve the problem.
Bruce added: “It is important to say that, whatever route we go down, I don’t think we will see him again this season, which is a tragedy for him and a tragedy for us.
“It is one of these complicated Achilles injuries where there is a difference of opinion between two surgeons, who are two of the best people in Europe.
“We will assess it over the next few days with our medical staff and make the right decision for Sone.
“We will decide what route we will go down over the next few days but it is fair to say to supporters that we are not going to see Aluko again this season.”
Hull host Bruce’s former club Birmingham City tomorrow as they look to bounce back from last weekend’s chastening defeat to Bolton Wanderers.
Paul McShane and Abdoulaye Faye both missed the trip to the Reebok though injury but have since returned to training.
Northern Ireland international defender Shane Ferguson could face Hull after joining Birmingham on a month’s loan from Newcastle.