MARK HUGHES has moved to allay fears over the future of England Under-21 star Michael Johnson, who has missed most of the season with painful muscular problems in his pelvic area.
There has been speculation that highly-rated Johnson's career might even be in jeopardy, such is the trouble he has had trying to get back to full fitness since his last game at Brighton in September.
However, Hughes does not feel the damage is so bad and Johnson, who is ready to work on his rehabilitation programme throughout the summer, might well be available for the start of next season.
"Michael is seeing another specialist this week," said Hughes. "The good news is that he doesn't need surgery.
"What he needs is more rehabilitation on the medical side. It is a little bit complicated but it is more about lengthening muscles - there is an imbalance there.
"It will take a period of rehab to enable the balance of his body to be in line to let him play pain-free. That's the latest news we have on it.
"We would like to think he will be available for the start of the season. After an intense period of rehabilitation, we hope that will be the case.
"The pains he was having on his right-hand side have resolved themselves because we have been able to do a lot of work on that side. It is about making sure the balance is there, which will enable him to play."