By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Michael Richardson is set to make his comeback after two months on the sidelines when Newcastle Reserves take on Aston Villa on Monday night.
The midfielder, who turns 20 on 17th March, suffered an ankle injury in training in January and was ruled out for up to three months, but has made great progress to return ahead of schedule.
United's second-string travel to Villa Park on Monday night (kick-off 7pm) before welcoming Sunderland to the Sports Direct Arena three days later, with the former Walker Central youngster likely to be involved in both.
And ahead of boarding the coach for Birmingham, Richardson told nufc.co.uk: "I trained all last week and joined in with the sessions a little bit the week before, so I've been getting back into the feel of it and hopefully I can get 45 minutes down at Aston Villa and then be ready for Sunderland on Thursday.
"It's been eight weeks since I've done it now so it's been quite a long time. It was meant to be 12 but to come back after eight has been good for me and after a week's training, to play 45 minutes would be good for me as well - to get games back into my legs and help me be ready to play on Thursday against Sunderland."
This time last year, Richardson was a regular in the first-team squad, being named on the bench four times between February and April 2011, and now he hopes to make up for lost time between now and the end of the season.
"It's always frustrating being injured," he admitted, "especially having a long injury like I have. You spend a lot of time in the gym and you watch them train out of the window, so it is hard sometimes and to be back is great.
"When they said 12 weeks, you think 'oh, that's a long time out,' but to come back after eight, I'm over the moon with that.
"Because I've never had that injury before, I think it's just healed quickly. Maybe if I'd done it before it might have taken longer, but the swelling went down after two or three weeks which was a good sign and that just allowed me to get it moving and strengthen it back up.
"And that's why I've come back a bit earlier than scheduled."