MOHAMED DIAME’S start to life at Hull City was nothing short of sensational.
Four goals in his first five Premier League appearances for the Yorkshire club marked the Senegal international out as an inspired signing by Steve Bruce.
Throw in not only the quality of those strikes but also the drive he immediately brought to the Tigers midfield and the £3.5m paid to West Ham United for his services was made to very quickly look like a bargain.
Unfortunately for Bruce and City, however, those qualities have been sadly lacking for the past four months due to Diame being injured.
The 27-year-old limped out of the 1-1 draw at Everton on December 3 in tremendous pain and has not been since in first team action since.
There was talk of a comeback in early February but that was immediately put on hold when Diame suffered a bad reaction in training.
Now, though, Diame is back joining in with his team-mates at Cottingham and planning to use the international break as a launchpad towards a return to Premier League action against Swansea City on April 4.
“This is a big two weeks for him,” admitted City manager Bruce when asked about the midfielder. “He has been out for four months.
“We do plan to try and arrange something (a behind closed doors match) for him. We will also have to see how he trains.
“Basically, he has got to train for the next six days for a start and then we will look at putting him into some sort of game. Something that is structured around him.”
Diame has been far from the only long-term absentee in the City squad this term with Robert Snodgrass setting the tone for what has often been a disruptive year for Bruce by suffering a dislocated kneecap on the opening day.
Since then, Michael Dawson, James Chester, Liam Rosenior, Nikica Jelavic and Allan McGregor have all had spells on the sidelines.
Rosenior returned to the bench in the weekend defeat to Chelsea, while Chester is also back training after recovering from the dislocated shoulder the defender suffered at West Ham United in mid-January.
It is, however, Diame who is most expected to make a big impact on his return. Even though his last action was three weeks before Christmas, the midfielder remains the club’s joint second highest goalscorer with Abel Hernandez.
With the relegation scrap likely to be decided by fine margins - already the pundits are saying 34 or 35 points may be enough to stay up, Bruce admits to relishing the chance to get the midfielder back involved.
He said: “When Mo is right, he will be a big addition for us. He has been out for a long time and you do miss players like him.
“When he joined in with training (last week), Diame looked as if he hadn’t been away. We realised what we were missing, put it that way.
“Four goals in nine games, that is what he brought to the team before getting injured. We have missed Mo just like we have missed, Jelavic, Dawson and the others. When you are without your big guns, it is always going to be a struggle.”
Snodgrass will not feature again this season but Jelavic may still make a return after surgery on his troublesome knee.
Bruce estimated ahead of the Chelsea defeat the Croat, the club’s top scorer with eight goals, would miss six weeks – meaning he could be back for the all-important run-in.