Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray has admitted losing Rhys Williams to ankle ligament damage in August has proved a serious loss to the Championship club.
The versatile 24-year-old Australia international could be back within weeks after working his way back to fitness, and his manager knows how important that might be.
Mowbray told the Evening Gazette: "Rhys being unavailable for long, long spells has been a drain.
"The days we have been struggling in midfield, he would have been there; the days we have been toiling at the back, he would have played there, so he's been like the loss of two players for so long.
"He's been a big player for us. He was made captain of the club and he was looking forward to a good season, and it's been a blow.
"But it will be a big positive for us when he gets himself back on the pitch."