With just 17 games remaining of their 2021/22 Sky Bet Championship campaign, Blackburn Rovers are well and truly in the race for promotion back to the Premier League, 10 years on from losing their place in the top-flight.
Tony Mowbray's side sit second in the standings at the time of writing and, on the back of a successful January transfer window which has seen them keep hold of some key players, may well have another ace up their sleeve for the run-in.
Bradley Dack - the man described by Mowbray as "the best player in the Championship" prior to successive long-term injuries - is nearing his eagerly anticipated return, and at a crucial time of the season.
The attacker has been building up match fitness with the Club's Under-23 side in recent weeks following a return to first-team training, and could provide a welcome boost as Rovers look to continue their promotion charge.
“It’s been tough," he says, when asked about his recovery from the two ACL injuries. "But, the way I see it, the quicker you get over it, the quicker you can get back. That’s the mentality I’ve taken – just work hard every day, because every day is a step closer to getting back. There have been moments when I’ve been down but I’ve got the right people around me, I’m at the right club and I’m taking it all in my stride. There’s a long time left in my career.
“Last time, it took me six or seven weeks to really get going and I’d imagine it will be the same this time. The boys are doing well enough without me so hopefully I can find my feet and add to what’s already going on.
"I haven’t played in front of fans since December 2019. I’ll get goosebumps when I run back out onto that pitch. I can’t wait for that feeling, and I can’t wait to find the net again in front of the fans.”
Dack joined Blackburn from Gillingham in June 2017 and spearheaded the Club's Sky Bet League One promotion-winning campaign, contributing 18 goals as Rovers finished second in the final standings.
With the Club in the same position five years on, this time in the division above, the 28-year-old says it's easy to draw parallels.
“It’s got that League One vibe about it now, definitely," he adds. "You can see the fans are believing and I think the whole club is believing. It definitely feels a bit like that season we had in League One. I’m not going to get back in the team at this rate!
“We didn’t expect it at the start of the season and so to have put ourselves in this position is incredible. I’m really proud to be part of this group and hope I can add something to it when I come back. It’s nice to see, and everyone just feels great. There’s a long way to go still but hopefully we can build on the platform we’ve made for ourselves – who knows what could happen.
“I’ll help as much as I can; I know what I can bring and hopefully that includes a bit of experience to help some of the younger players. It will take time for me to get back to where I want to be, but I’ll try to help the team as much as I can."
And while the players deserve plenty of credit for Rovers' current fortunes, Dack says it's those behind the scenes - including his long-serving manager - who have brought everyone together in the hope of achieving a collective goal.
“This is a brilliant club," he concludes. "I’ve been here almost five years now and you get to know a lot of people. It’s run in the right way and the people behind the scenes are brilliant; the staff have been amazing to me and everyone is together as a group. The whole club has been together since I arrived, and we’re now in the position I wanted us to be in when I joined.
“The gaffer has given me confidence from the day I walked through the door. He wanted me to play as if I was in the local park and that’s what I’ve based my game on. It’s nice to hear that praise from him, and my aim is to get back to that level. I fully expect myself to do that."