In the background of Latics’ 20 matches so far this season spread across the Championship, Europa League, Capital One Cup and Community Shield, Club Captain Gary Caldwell has been hard at work on his recovery from a double hip operation.
The 31-year-old defender has been gaining strength since the summer and revealed that the past few weeks have been some of his most progressive yet.
“I’ve been working a lot more outside and I went through a lot of fitness tests last week while the boys were away just to get a gauge of what I need to improve on.
“The first moment I stepped out on the training pitch I could feel that I was getting closer and closer to getting back to playing which has been driving me forwards.”
Caldwell couldn’t put an exact date on when he’ll be fully recovered, but he does hope to be more and more involved by the end of the calendar year.
“Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to strengthen the areas that I was weak in and go back to training with the group.
“I’ve been out working on the grass for a couple of weeks now, but it’s been light work and now I’m building towards getting a bit more involved.
“Once I get myself back with the group the hard work continues and I’ll be getting back up to speed with everyone, playing in some reserve games and fighting to get back to full fitness.
“I’m really looking forward to training with everyone again, and I’d say it’s likely that I’ll be available to play at least reserve football by the end of this year.”
Having endured a similar hip operation in the past, Caldwell admitted he took recovery too quickly last time and has taken more control over his determination to return as soon as possible.
“This time around though, I’ve taken it a lot slower because I know from the last time I had the surgery that if I rush things then I won’t be 100%.
“Looking back at last time I definitely rushed back too soon, but it’s natural for a footballer to want to do that.
“Hopefully by taking things slowly I’ll be able to benefit and play a bigger part for the team.
“We’ll have to see how that goes and then I’ll be able to make myself available for selection again.”
Taking a back seat so far this season, Caldwell assessed the performance of the team so far, saying:
“We’ve had a lot of games already this season and to be where we are in both competitions at this stage of the campaign is an exceptional achievement.
“Everyone at the club would agree that we want to be doing better though.
“We’re a pretty honest group of players and staff who can see that we can improve, but we also appreciate that the first months of the season would always be a big challenge.
“Thursday and Sunday fixtures are difficult to deal with no matter who you are and we’ve dealt with it well so far.”