There was huge excitement among West Ham United fans yesterday when pictures emerged showing Declan Rice back in a first team training session.
Rice has missed West Ham’s last three games after picking up a knee injury with England.
No timescale has been put on his return by David Moyes.
But West Ham are sorely missing their talisman as they try to cling on to hopes of a Champions League place.
Rice pictured back in amongst first team training session
Rice’s absence will continue when West Ham take on Chelsea in a European place six-pointer today.
But there was renewed hope of a return to action soon for Rice.
That’s after the midfield enforcer was pictured back in first team training on the Rush Green pitches ahead of the game.
The pictures were posted on West Ham’s social media channels and fans were excited as they desperately hope to see their main man back in the fold.
Some supporters spotted something which suggested he could yet be some way off, though.
Fans spot something about Rice which suggests he could still be some way off a return
Rice was seen standing on the side of what looked like a rondo keep ball drill as well as running.
But crucially he was only wearing trainers. That means his training would have been very limited and tentative.
There would have been no twisting or turning to his running. And he certainly would not have been kicking a ball.
Taking those factors into account Rice looks to be at least another two to three weeks away from any possible return.
There were hopes inside West Ham that he might be back in time to face Everton on May 9th.
Dec’s return for the last two or three games looks the most realistic scenario
But that will be pushing it based on the pictures showing he is only at the light jogging stage.
With Brighton coming just two days after the Everton match, that seems unlikely too.
West Ham will surely be targeting Rice’s return for at least the final two games against West Brom and Southampton.
West Brom look set to have been relegated by then with nothing but pride to play for. While Southampton will be safe and in a similar situation.
It should – on paper at least – be a banker six points for the Hammers.