Christophe Berra resumed training with Hearts today a full three months earlier than scheduled.
The club captain's rapid recovery from a torn hamstring has cut his rehabilitation period in half after he was told in August that he would miss six months of football.
He began light exercises with the first-team squad at Riccarton and is targeting a comeback against Rangers in two weeks' time. Manager Craig Levein explained that game is a realistic target provided Berra suffers no setbacks.
"Christophe is joining in with the warm-up and passing today," Levein told the Evening News this morning. "This is his first day joining in.
"His view was that he might be ready by the Rangers game. If he trains fine today then we've got a fortnight. If he trains constantly during that fortnight, I don't think he will be 100 per cent but he won't be far away.
"I'm not going to risk him at all so he'll have to be right. By that I mean that he will need to have trained through the next two weeks. He's had no issues with his hamstring at all so far, so I don't expect anything.
"All his strength tests are really good and he has been closely monitored. He is back in training today because he's ready to go back to training. If he does two weeks training, I think he will be ready for a match."
Berra, 33, tore his hamstring off the bone during August's win against Celtic at Tynecastle Park. The initial prognosis stated he would be out until late January or early February, but the player has made quick progress and is ready to push for a first-team return.