Port Vale right-back Adam Yates is confident there will be opportunities for him under Bruno Ribeiro once he completes his comeback from injury.
The 33-year-old found out he had a ruptured cruciate ligament after a pre-season friendly with Nottingham Forest back in July.
During scans for a separate complaint, it emerged that Yates had played with the problem for several months. He has been sidelined since, meaning he has yet to play under Portuguese boss Ribeiro.
But the Valiants’ longest-serving player believes there will be a chance for him to break back into the team upon his return.
Speaking at the opening of the Samaritans’ new store in Burslem, Yates said: “I’m getting better. I started running on grass at the club on Thursday. That’s the first time I’ve put any weight through my knee properly.
“I won’t be competitively training until some time in January. That’s the earliest I can be back. The injury won’t be 100 per-cent at that point.
“Now’s the time that I need to do as much work around the knee to stabilise it as I can.
“I’m desperate to get back but if I come back too early, I run the risk of doing something serious again. Hopefully I come back stronger than I’ve ever been.”
Yates, who spent time on loan at Northampton Town last season, added: “Once I come back, there’ll be an opportunity for me to go in to the team at some point.
“When that is I don’t know. I hope we’re flying and we’re in the play-off positions when I come back to train and play.
“Hopefully I’ll take my chance and I stay in the team. I obviously love playing for the club and it’s somewhere I want to be.”
Vale are just one point outside of the League One play-off positions and Yates is pleased with how his teammates have fared in his absence.
He continued: “If you offered this position at the start of the season, anyone at the football club would have taken it.
“The pleasing thing is, in recent times when we’ve not played well, we’ve still managed to grind out a win. For me, that’s a sign of a good side.
“As someone who has been here a long time, I’ve played in sides where we’ve played well and lost a lot of games.
“But we’ve played poorly and won recently. Those are the signs of a good and strong dressing room.”