Pompey are not planning for Jack Whatmough’s return this season.
However, Joe Gallen has been encouraged by the defender’s determination along his comeback trail.
Whatmough has been sidelined since September with damaged cruciate knee ligaments.
It has long been anticipated he would be out for the remainder of the campaign, despite encouraging progress during rehabilitation.
According to Gallen, that remains the ‘realistic’ outlook – with any earlier return a bonus.
In the meantime, the 21-year-old has spent the past two weeks running outside as he maintains his rehabilitation.
Pompey’s assistant manager said: ‘Jack is outside running now and he is doing well.
‘He looks well, he’s slim and fit, and if everything runs smoothly you would be putting a date on things.
‘However, the problem with his knee injury is your body is not acclimatised to training and playing football so other niggling injuries can occur.
‘If he could cut out the niggly injuries which normally happen to someone coming back from a long-term injury, he could be back before the end of the season.
‘But, realistically, it could be a thigh strain here, a groin strain there, a hamstring and a niggle which can hold him back.
‘Jack’s in good spirits and it’s good to see him out running again and we are looking forward to getting him back.
‘But I don’t think we should put any pressure on him and make any clear statements to say he’s going to be back on a certain date.
‘He is going to be back when he is ready, that is the sensible thing to say.
‘He’s not been moping around here either, but he will learn from previous experience of having an injury that once his body has decided he is ready to be fit then he will be fit.
‘We are not expecting him to be back before the end of the season.
‘Realistically, he needs to make sure he is ready to go pre-season.
‘Anything other than that is a bonus.’
Whatmough had been an ever-present for the Blues in their opening seven matches of the campaign. But he underwent a knee operation following injury in the 1-0 defeat to Rotherham.