West Ham boss Alan Curbishley is ready to give Dean Ashton his first start in 472 days in their Carling Cup clash with Bristol Rovers.
"Dean's in a similar position to Michael Owen, who has also been out for a long time, but with every week and every game he has the chance to get fitter and stronger. He needs lots of matches but since pre-season he hasn't really had the chance to play any more games.
"He managed to get through the season without any hiccups and he's now going along quite nicely, so the Bristol Rovers tie will give him the chance to get 90 minutes of competitive football under his belt.
"Anyway, Dean's not coming to me asking to play and like us all, he's being realistic. There's no problem with him, he's worked so hard to get back to full fitness and the big fear was that something else, other than the ankle, would happen to him in pre-season. Now, he's just delighted that he's come through all this and we've got to make sure that we're doing the right thing, both for the team and individuals as we ease him back."