LIAM Sercombe is set to make a sensational return to training this week after making a recovery which has even surprised Oxford United’s medical staff.

It is less than eight weeks since the midfielder ruptured a medial knee ligament in the 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury Town.

He was initially ruled out for the season, a huge blow at the time.

Although the lay-off was quickly reduced to three or four months, Sercombe has shattered even the most optimistic predictions which has left United stunned.

Head coach Michael Appleton said: “I don’t think even Procs (Andrew Proctor, United’s head of sports science and medicine) knows how, it’s just a fantastic recovery.

“He’s not been injured that much in his career, apart from one bad one at Exeter.

“It’s happened a lot quicker than expected.

“I remember doing it myself when I was at Preston and I went very quickly from being in quite a lot of pain just jogging to within four or five days being able to sprint and turn.”

He added: “He’ll be coming back into the fold by the middle of next week and really stepping up.

“He’s joining in with us towards the back end of the week anyway.

“In terms of being in contention for this Saturday, it might be too soon, but beyond that he could be in and around the squad again.”

Sercombe’s return well ahead of schedule will provide a significant boost to a squad which has been hit hard by injuries.

Although United have arguably more cover in central midfield than any other position, none of the alternatives match Sercombe’s goal threat.

Although the 26-year-old has struggled to replicate the form which saw him score 17 times last season, his three goals this term have included late winners against Birmingham City and Rochdale.

Appleton admitted the former Exeter City man has been missed, with United struggling to find the net in recent games.

“Absolutely and he was probably a bit frustrated earlier in the season that he’s not added to his tally, but he has a timing about getting into the box and playing off strikers,” he said.

“He gives us an opportunity at times to play one off a striker rather than two up top.

“He’s good to have around the place and the quicker we get him in the squad the better.”

Another two players are due to emerge from the treatment room shortly.

United hope Christian Ribeiro, out since the start of the season with a broken ankle, could return to training in about three weeks.

Sam Long is on track to start training next week after two months with a hamstring injury.