Michael O'Neill has played down fears for the future of Corry Evans saying that the Blackburn and Northern Ireland midfielder hopes to be back in training by the end of the season.
The Green and Whites boss has also revealed that he has held tentative talks with the 30-year-old over him joining up with the squad for the make-or-break Euro 2020 Play-Off clash with Bosnia and Herzegovina later this month.
Evans had his season cut short when he suffered a fractured skull and eye sockets on his 200th appearance for the club against Preston in January.
The horrific injury required extensive reconstructive facial surgery that involved his scalp being pulled back and metal plates being inserted under the skin and under both eyelids.
“Corry is in good spirits,” said O’Neill. “He is in a good place. When you get an injury of that nature, which is quite traumatic, you are just glad that you’ve come through surgery.
“It was a big procedure but he hopes to be back training, possibly by the end of the season.
“I had obviously seen pictures of him and swapped texts with him. I was horrified with the injury and what he has had to go through. It is a great relief to see him looking so great. I actually think he looks about 21 again now with the reconstruction!
“He has been extremely well looked after by the club though, obviously, he is not yet back in training.”
Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray warned that the biggest obstacle to Evans’ recovery could be mental with concerns over how he will cope with the physical side of the game, particularly heading the ball.
“I am confident he will overcome it because Corry is a top boy,” said O’Neill. “He is a player with minimal fuss. I asked him ‘How do you think you will feel?’ and he said he will be fine. He doesn’t seem to have any reservations about that.
“In fact, surgery has probably made him stronger in that area so I don’t think there will be any concerns.”
O’Neill was spotted deep in conversation with Evans in the Ewood Park tunnel before Blackburn’s goalless draw with Stoke on Wednesday.
The 50-year-old, who combines his roles as Northern Ireland and Stoke bosses until at least the Euro play-offs, stressed that they did not discuss when he might be ready to play again.
One of the areas they did discuss was the possibility of him joining up with the Northern Ireland squad for the Euro 2020 play-off game at the Stadion Bilino Polje in Zenica, 40 miles north of Sarajevo, on March 26.
O’Neill added: “I think Corry is keen to come along and he is obviously welcome. For me, in terms of what you want in an international player, such as reliability, trust and doing a job on the pitch, then you could not ask for anything more than what Corry has done for me in various positions.
“So, yes, Corry is more than welcome at any of the get-togethers we will have.”