BLACKBURN Rovers boss Gary Bowyer claims that Ireland international Shane Duffy will be like a new signing for next season when he returns from injury.
Defender Duffy, who has been capped once at senior level, has been out of action since February due to injury. But the 23-year-old has made good progress in his rehab programme and will report back for pre-season training ahead of his Ewood Park team-mates so he can get up to speed, but boss Bowyer is delighted to see Duffy get the all-clear to resume full training.
"Shane got signed off at the end of last week but he's going to come back in a little bit earlier to top off," said Bowyer.
"I'm delighted he's got signed off as he's done ever so well and worked ever so hard over the summer. Having Shane and [fellow injury victim Jason Lowe] both back will be like new signings."
Duffy joined Blackburn from Everton at the start of last season and eventually won a place in the first team under Bowyer.
But an injury which he picked up in February ended his season and Duffy missed the Championship run-in with Rovers, while he was also sidelined for the international matches in 2015.
Duffy is one of three current senior internationals who had to miss a chunk of the club and international season due to injury but all three plan to return for the start of the new campaign and force themselves back into contention with club and country.
Darron Gibson has been out since March due to a knee problem, and while initial claims that he could be available to Ireland for the June internationals were unfounded, Toffees boss Roberto Martinez is keen to see the ex-Manchester United man back in the frame with Everton.
"We need to make sure he is 100 per cent. If he is fully fit for pre-season, that would be fantastic. We don't have another player like him in the squad," said Martinez.
Ciarán Clark was also denied a run of games with Ireland and Aston Villa, including that FA Cup final clash with Arsenal, due to a knee problem, but his club are also confident that Clark will be fully fit in time for pre-season.
Meanwhile, Blackburn remain hopeful that Ireland U21 cap Darragh Lenihan will sign a new deal.
The former Belvedere player made the breakthrough at club level last season, impressing on loan to Burton Albion. Rovers are keen to keep Lenihan, 21 on board and have offered him a new deal.