Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has revealed star striker Darren Bent has begun running as he steps up his recovery after undergoing ankle surgery in March.
The England international has been sidelined since suffering ankle ligament damage in February and will miss the rest of the season.
However, the former Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland forward still harbours slight hopes of making the plane for Euro 2012.
Speaking at the beginning of April, Bent refused to rule out a surprise comeback in Poland and Ukraine.
“The quicker I’m out on the pitch running, the quicker I can have an inkling about Euro 2012,” he said.
“But I am on the mend, can walk without crutches and have just started rehab work in the pool and also doing stuff in the gym as well.”
Bent has since begun light running and his progress was assessed this week by England’s medical team at Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training complex.
Villa boss McLeish is delighted Bent is “bang on course for a full recovery”.
“The player himself is obviously delighted and he has begun to do light running which is good news,” said McLeish.
“He will continue to work under the guidance of (Villa doctor) Dr Ian McGuinness and the medical team.”
The loss of Bent has been keenly felt by Villa. McLeish’s men are without a win in five and have won only once in 11 league games. They sit six points above the drop zone, having played a game more than third-bottom Bolton Wanderers.
Bent had looked certain to play a part in England’s Euro 2012 campaign before injury curtailed his season. He was a regular squad member during the qualifying campaign, scoring twice. The striker will be desperate for a chance to prove himself in a major tournament.