Jose Cubero is finally on the verge of a return to action for Blackpool.
The Costa Rican midfielder has played only twice since joining the Seasiders in a £300,000 deal last summer.
After work permit problems delayed his debut by almost two months, World Cup star Cubero picked up a foot injury in the draw at Middlesbrough in September and has not played since.
The 27-year-old had an operation in his homeland last month and is close to fitness at last.
And manager Lee Clark is delighted to have him back. “Jose is back in training now, which is a big boost,” he said.
“He has come back from Costa Rica and has looked strong. He’s trained with the squad for a few days now and there have been no problems.”
Signed by Jose Riga, Cubero has not played since Clark took over but the manager is more than aware of his qualities.
“Jose Cubero has a class CV,” he said. “He was very impressive in the World Cup, and by all accounts he was when he played for Blackpool. He seems a nice lad who wants to work hard.
“Our fitness coach Mick Rathbone has been very impressed by his fitness levels, so the next step is to get him on a football pitch.”
Pool have been handed another boost this week with the return to fitness of defender Gary MacKenzie.
The 29-year-old’s recovery from an Achilles injury has been beset by setbacks but MacKenzie is now back in full training with the first-team squad.
The Scot has not played since April and Pool considered a short loan spell to get some game-time under his belt. Instead Clark revealed he intends to arrange behind-closed-doors games in which Cubero and MacKenzie will play.
The Pool boss said: “Gary is a bit further down the line than Jose in training. He’s been working hard for the last two weeks. Obviously they both have issues with football fitness, which you can only get from playing games.”