Stoke City's Danny Higginbotham targets October return
Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham is hopeful that he will be fit to return from a serious knee injury in October.
The 32-year-old ruptured his cruciate ligament in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea on 2 April, an injury that caused him to miss the FA Cup final.
"It's been two months since my operation and it's coming on slowly but surely," he told BBC Radio Stoke.
"The best case scenario is to be training at some stage in September and match-fit in October. That's my aim."
Higginbotham, who has played over 100 league games in two spells with the Potters, struggled for regular football throughout last season but had forced his way back into the first team when the injury struck.
He had been the hero of the Potters' 2-1 victory over West Ham in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in March, scoring the winning goal with a 25-yard free kick.
But injury prevented him from featuring in the semi-final win over Bolton or the final defeat to Manchester City, both at Wembley.
"It was the ultimate high and low," added Higginbotham. "It just happened out of the blue.
"It's something that's done now and I've just got to look forward.
"The aim is to come back stronger and fitter than I was two minutes before the injury. If I can do that, I know I'm in a good position.
"It's all about my rehab, I've just got to do that properly and that will dictate how strong I come back."
The Potters' first-team squad returned to pre-season training on Thursday, three weeks before their first match of the season.
They will play the first leg of their Europa League third qualifying round tie on 28 July, although their opponents are yet to be decided.
The team will also spend a week in Austria as part of their pre-season preparations.