Jack Grealish is poised to deliver a huge boost to England’s Euro 2020 hopes by resuming training with Aston Villa on Saturday.
The Villa captain has not played since February 13 due to a shin problem but saw experts in London this week and has been cleared to rejoin his team-mates.
Though Sunday’s meeting with Manchester United at Villa Park will come too soon, Villa boss Dean Smith is hopeful Grealish will be fit to take on either Everton on May 13 or Crystal Palace three days later.
Jack Grealish will take a big step back to full fitness by training with Aston Villa on Saturday
The playmaker has missed Villa’s last 11 matches and has not featured since February 13
If Grealish is fit, it will delight Gareth Southgate, who is likely to include the 25-year-old in his final 26-man squad for the tournament as long as he is healthy.
Smith said: ‘His first day of training will be with the players Saturday. Then we can actually gradually build that load up aiming for even Everton or Crystal Palace to play a part in those games.
‘But we will be guided by Jack who knows what the pain will feel like but also the medical staff as well.’
Without the playmaker, Smith’s men have taken only 12 points from 11 matches, winning just three of those games. Grealish had been one of the best players in the Premier League before his injury, scoring six goals and registering 10 assists.
Grealish (right) is expected to be a big player in Gareth Southgate’s (left) England squad
He also took his chance on the international stage last autumn with a particularly impressive display in the 2-0 Nations League defeat by Belgium on November 20, having also performed well in a friendly against Wales a month earlier.
Meanwhile, West Midlands Police have confirmed they will have a presence in the area for the United game, with the possibility of further protests from visiting supporters against the Glazer family who own the club.
Last weekend’s meeting with Liverpool at Old Trafford was postponed when supporters managed to enter the stadium to make their feelings known, following United’s decision to sign up last month for the European Super League, which collapsed quickly.
Dean Smith is confident Villa Park’s security can contend with Manchester United protests
A spokesman for WMP said: ‘We’ll have a police presence in and around the stadium and be ready to respond should any criminal offences take place.’
Smith has no fears about the game being halted, joking that the difficulty of entering Villa Park would deter even the most determined protestor.
He added: ‘I find it hard enough to get into Villa Park myself. I don’t think many others will be able to get in there. Our security staff are very diligent. I wouldn’t expect any [problems].’