Gianfranco Zola has spoken of his delight at having Danny Gabbidon back in action on the Chadwell Heath training pitches this week.
The Wales defender has trained fully with his team-mates and felt no after-effects, although he knows there is still a way to go having spent months working hour after hour on his rehabilitation from an abdominal injury that was anything but straightforward.
Gabbidon's last competitive action came in a January 2008 reserve-team match at Portsmouth and he has not played since. Should all go well, it is hoped that he will be involved from the start of pre-season training in early July.
The manager, who could have Kieron Dyer back for Sunday's final-day visit of Middlesbrough, said: "We have Danny Gabbidon back in training. This is great news for us and I am very pleased because it is something that everyone should be happy about. He has worked so hard to get to this point."
Zola also said there was positive news on Dean Ashton, who could also take his place alongside Gabbidon in pre-season after recovering from his ankle problem while Valon Behrami is targeting mid-August for his return from a cruciate knee injury.
"Dean Ashton is also doing well," the manager added. "He will be a big asset for us next season and we will have others coming back. The young players will have more experience. It will be a different team next season. We will start from the beginning and build them up in the way we want. It is going to be really good for everyone and I am looking forward.