Barry Ferguson could be set for a dramatic first-team comeback in Rangers’ next match against Dundee United.
Tuesday’s reserve match with Hibernian has been pencilled in as the date for the club captain to make his first outing since undergoing ankle ligament surgery.
Manager Walter Smith insists he will not rush the 30-year-old Scotland skipper back but revealed the midfielder may be considered for the October 18 Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash at Ibrox.
Smith told the club’s official website, www.rangers.co.uk: “I don’t know yet if he will be able to play in next week’s reserve game at Hibs.
“We will see how his training goes this week.
“He had a full week’s training last week and if he can get another full week in then we can look at him playing in the Hibs game.
“However, we will wait until he is ready. There is no point in us pushing him as that could set him back.
“He has been out for a few months now and when a player is out for that long, when he comes back he has to be fully prepared for it.
“We will give Barry the time that is necessary and if it is not next week then it will be the week after.”
Smith went on to reveal Ferguson could go straight back into first-team action at least two weeks ahead of schedule if his reserve outing goes to plan.
He added: “He will need a few games but that doesn’t mean he can’t be involved in the first team, if he feels as though he can do that.
“His injury has cleared up now. It’s just a matter of getting to the required levels of fitness and as long as he feels okay, it would not preclude him from being involved in the games.”
There was more positive news on the injury front for Rangers, with Lee McCulloch available again after featuring in the last two reserve matches, while Steven Whittaker should be back in full training next week.
The former Hibs man had been bothered by a knee problem but Smith hopes that is now clearing up.
He said: “Steven Whittaker had an injection in a cyst on his knee and we hope that has settled things down. The signs are that it has.
“He is not getting the same amount of discomfort as he was, so hopefully that will disappear within a week and he can get back to full training.”
In terms of the longer term injured players, Steven Smith has been training again and Steven Naismith is also progressing well, although he is still some time away from playing given the severity of his injury – a cruciate ligament problem.
The manager said: “Steven Naismith is back training and he is at the frustrated stage because he feels okay but the specialist won’t allow him to start playing again.
“We have to give it a requisite period of time and he will just have to be patient and take the necessary time.”