GOALKEEPER Ian Gray will make an early start to pre-season training as Town chief Peter Jackson prepares for a Coca-Cola League I promotion assault.
While the rest of his teammates report back a week today, the 29-year-old stopper will start work tomorrow.
Gray will be having one-on-one sessions with physio Lee Martin, himself a former goalkeeper, as he steps up his rehabilitation work after a serious hand injury.
The Mancunian, signed from Rotherham last summer, hasn't handled a ball since breaking a bone during the FA Cup tie at Accrington Stanley back in November.
That will change this week - and how he responds to the step-up in rehabilitation will determine both his chances of facing former club Stockport in the big opener at Edgeley Park on Saturday, August 7 and whether Jackson makes a move to bring Paul Rachubka back to the club.
Charlton man Rachubka played the final 17 matches of the season, and was a crucial figure in the Division III play-off final shoot-out win over Mansfield in Cardiff.
Gray, under contract for another season, played the opening 22 matches of the campaign (Phil Senior was between the posts for the middle chunk of 16) and is desperate for a return.
"I had an operation on my knuckle a few months ago, and ever since, it's been a matter of letting it heal and doing a few hand exercises while keeping up my general fitness," said Gray, who began his career at Oldham and has also played for Rochdale.
"This is the longest spell I've ever been out of the game and I can't wait to get going again. This will be the first time I've done any ball work so it's an important few days."
Gray looked on while his teammates celebrated winning promotion at the Millennium Stadium.
"I don't feel like I missed out at all," he insisted.
"If the injury had happened six weeks before the play-offs, I'd have been gutted.
"But it was six months before, so I had plenty of time to get used to the idea of not being involved.
"I was just delighted for everybody at the club, and hopefully I'll get enough games under my belt next season to prove I'm worth another contract."