SHANDON Baptiste is on course to make a surprise playing return for Oxford United before the start of the new season.

The 21-year-old has been sidelined since January, when he ruptured knee ligaments just six minutes into his comeback after shoulder surgery.

Earlier this summer the provisional target was for the midfielder to be available in September, but he has made strong progress in the last few weeks.

Having taken part in some sessions throughout pre-season, Baptiste is due to start full training on Monday.

It is possible he could be passed fit to play some part in United’s last senior warm-up game, at Solihull Moors next Saturday, or in a behind-closed-doors friendly with the under 23s during the final week of pre-season.

While United will not rush him back into competitive action, the early return of a player who showed huge promise at the start of the last campaign is very welcome.

Robinson said: “We’re hoping he’s ten days away from a game.

“Solihull is nine days away, so you never know, there might be five minutes in that, or there may be a game the following week for the under 23s

“He’s massively ahead of schedule, which is great for him and us, because we know how good he can be.

“He’ll be like a new signing.”

The only blip so far has been a minor groin strain, bizarrely sustained getting out of a car, during the training camp in Portugal.

Otherwise the youngster, who burst on to the scene 12 months ago to become a key figure, has reaped rewards for his hard work in rehabilitation.

One factor which has helped take the pressure off is Baptiste’s contractual situation.

His stellar start to last season saw United move quickly to secure a long-term deal, removing the risk of having to push himself due to becoming a free agent this summer.

And Robinson has repeatedly mentioned how much of a boost the squad will receive when the youth team graduate returns.

“It’s a really good thing when you hear that,” Baptiste said.

“To me it shows how well I did when I was playing and how much confidence the gaffer has in me to keep me in his thoughts.

“Hopefully when I’m back I can produce performances that he’s proud of.

“I need to play and show everyone at the club who showed their support in me. I know what I can do.”