Jack Butland could return by mid-March says Mark Hughes
Stoke boss Mark Hughes says Jack Butland could be available for selection again by the middle of next month.
The Potters goalkeeper sustained a fractured ankle while on England duty just under a year ago and has not been involved in a match since, with his attempts to return to fitness being hit by setbacks.
Butland underwent his most recent operation on the ankle in December and he is currently undergoing rehabilitation in Qatar.
Giving an update on the 23-year-old on Friday, Hughes said that by mid-March Butland "could very well be an option".
The Welshman said: "He's had no setbacks - touch wood - since the last operation.
"So the feeling is we're very hopeful that he'll be back very soon.
"I think he's got a meeting with a consultant in a week or two's time, and I think that's when he'll hopefully be given a green light to do anything he wants in terms of full integration, so we're looking forward to that.
"Once he gets that then it'll be maybe a couple of weeks more that he'll be available for selection. That'd be great."
Butland took the opportunity to briefly meet up with his team-mates in the Middle East in the last few days, with them having been on a training camp in Dubai from Thursday to Wednesday.
"He flew in to see the guys and he is in good form," said Hughes, speaking ahead of Sunday's Premier League away clash with Tottenham.
"He was only there for a day then flew back out to Qatar to resume his rehabilitation.
"He is really enjoying it. They're working him exceptionally hard and he is going to benefit from that.
"We had a good week in Dubai, even though we didn't quite get the weather we had been hoping for.
"Arguably, it was sunnier here in Stoke this morning than it was in Dubai!
"But the key was just to get everybody together and enjoy the training we did, which was of a high level - it's been really good preparation for the game at the weekend.
"It's a big test for us but we'll see the impact the trip has had."
Sunday's contest could see Stoke's January signing from West Brom, Saido Berahino, make his first start for the Staffordshire outfit - against a club who had multiple bids for him rejected by Albion in the summer of 2015.
That memorably prompted a tweet from the forward in which he made an apparent strike threat.
When asked on Friday about Berahino, who has so far made two substitute appearances for Stoke, Hughes said: "I'm sure he's not thinking about Spurs any more. He is very much a Stoke player.
"No doubt he'll play a part - whether or not it's a start, we'll have to wait and see.
"He's looking really sharp and not a million miles away. If it is not this weekend, then he's very close to it."