It’s now almost a year since Bradley Dack set foot on a football pitch in competitive circumstances for Blackburn Rovers.
Ever since he was stretchered off around an hour into Rovers’ goalless draw with Wigan Athletic at Ewood Park on the 23rd December with what would shortly after be diagnosed as an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Dack has found himself on a long road to recovery.
Now however, it seems as though the attacker’s long wait for a return to action is coming to an end, and Blackburn fans will no doubt be rubbing their hands in anticipation at the prospect of seeing their talisman back on a Championship pitch yet again.
But just how has Dack’s recovery gone so far, what issues will does he still have to overcome, and just what is next for the attacker?
Here, we’ve taken a look at all that, in our latest hat-trick feature.
How’s it gone so far?
In fairness to Dack, his resilience and determination to get back to full fitness as soon as possible has been admirable.
The attacker has, by all accounts, been working tirelessly to get back to action at the earliest possible point, and he did reach a milestone moment late last month, playing 45 minutes of a behind closed doors game for the club’s under 23s in a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United.
However, Dack’s progress since then has not been without its bumps in the road. The 26-year-old encountered a hamstring issue that set him back slightly in September, although it did not stop him from making that return to some form of action last month in that aforementioned Under 23s outing.
But since then, a recurrence of those minor concerns around that hamstring issue has emerged, preventing Dack from featuring again for the Under 23s, as had been hoped would happen to continue building up his match fitness and sharpness.
What issues does he face?
Obviously the biggest priority for Dack at the minute is completing his recovery, but even after that, there will be plenty of challenges for the attacker to overcome.
Given the way Dack’s fellow Blackburn attackers such as Adam Armstrong, Ben Brereton, Sam Gallagher, Harvey Elliott and Tyrhys Dolan are performing so far this season, there is no guarantee that he will be able to walk straight back into the side once his recovery is complete.
That is something that could be further complicated by the fact that since his injury, Mowbray’s side have switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 formation, meaning Dack will also have to adapt to a new system when he makes his return to first-team action.
Then of course, there is the weight of expectation he may well feel, given that after so long out, there will be a great deal of anticipation from the club’s fanbase surrounding his return, particularly with the aspirations of a push for the play-off places that the club hold this season.
For the first time since his injury, this week saw Dack handed a definitive target date for his return to first-team action.
Speaking ahead of his side’s trip to Bristol City on Wednesday night, Mowbray revealed that the club are hopeful the attacker will make his return to action when they host Doncaster at Ewood Park in the third round of the FA Cup on the weekend of the 9th/10th January.
Prior to that, it is likely that Dack will feature at least one more time for the club’s Under 23s side, in order to ensure he is indeed ready to make his long-awaited return in that cup game.
Should he manage to do that, then that would leave Dack with exactly half of the Championship left to feature in, which ought to plenty of time for him to make a big impact in what Rovers will hope is a successful push for promotion to the Premier League.