Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell has cautioned that Nathan McGinley’s return to the training pitch is just a small step on his long road back to fitness.
Left-back McGinley has not played since March 13 last year but was pictured running last week.
Motherwell have deliberately not disclosed what the left-back’s problem has been, although he made an aborted comeback in pre-season training.
The 26-year-old has a further season left on his contract but his chances of being fit for the start of next term appear slim.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s visit of Ross County, Kettlewell said: “It’s nice to see Nathan back out on the park, it’s been a really, really tough struggle for him. He is out doing some very, very light work on the pitch.
“Fourteen months out the game is an awfully long time and from what I hear from Nathan, the medical team and the sports science guys, there is a substantial amount of time that has to come now in terms of that build-up, and that’s provided there is no hiccup.
“It’s not just a case of getting back on the park and he is available for selection or able to go straight into pre-season, there is an awful lot of work that has to go in to build Nathan up before he can go back into training sessions.
“The first step is there but we hadn’t got him on the park even to do light running during that 14 months, so that is a massive step, and it was really nice to see him come back on the park and get a round of applause from the players. I really hope he can kick on in the coming weeks and months.”
Motherwell have had to rely on loan left-backs this season after Jake Carroll suffered a serious knee injury early in the campaign.
“Jake has still not been back on the park,” Kettlewell said. “Jake is out of contract, I spoke to him the other day.
“The medical care he has had has been terrific and the access he has had to the medical guys here and the facilities is great. He knows the football club is doing everything it possibly can to get him back out there playing.”
Another long-term absentee, Josh Morris, who has a further year left on his deal, has not featured since November 9 and has not been seen around Fir Park for several months.
Kettlewell said: “Josh has been out with a longer-term injury and I expect there to be confirmation on that situation in the next week or two.”
The Motherwell manager also gave an update on short-term injuries, including Max Johnston, who missed last weekend’s win over St Johnstone.
“Max has got a hamstring niggle,” Kettlewell said. “It’s not a major issue but it kept him out on Saturday and it kept him off the park for a day or two this week as well.
“We will see how he is in the next couple of days to see if he is available for selection.
“Joe Efford has been struggling, Riku Danzaki has been struggling. Ross Tierney and Jon Obika have been incrementing back into training sessions.”
Meanwhile, Kettlewell could provide no clarity on reports from East Anglia that Johnston recently visited Norwich’s training ground with a view to a summer transfer.
The 19-year-old wing-back is out of contract and Kettlewell has “offered him the best deal that’s on offer”.
“I would expect if someone was visiting another football club that there would be some sort of dialogue there,” the Well boss said.
“There’s been absolutely no dialogue from Max, his representatives or anything like that to tell us that was happening.”