EMMERSON Boyce has returned to full training and is ready to bolster the Latics defence for the relegation run-in.
The right-back, one of the longest-serving players at he club, has been sidelined with a hamstring problem since the victory over Blackburn at the beginning of last month.
It is his second lay-off of the campaign, having already missed two months with a similar injury sustained against Bolton in mid-October.
But after a careful diet of rest and rehabilitation – and the added benefits of a specialised training regime at Wigan’s training camp in La Manga – the 31-year-old is on the verge of a welcome return to the first-team set-up.
“Boycey joined the group for full training yesterday, which was very positive news, and a sign we have accelerated his recovery process by being here in La Manga,” boss Roberto Martinez told the Evening Post.
“The trip has benefited everyone but particularly Boycey, who has been able to complete three sessions a day since we’ve been here.
“And of course we can look after his recovery 24-7, which we wouldn’t have been able to do at home.”
However, Boyce could face a fight to regain his right-back berth, with new-boy Adrian Lopez coming in and making an accomplished debut at Manchester City last weekend.
The Spaniard, whose preferred position is centre-back, laid down a marker after taking over from the dropped Steve Gohouri.
And Martinez feels his countryman will get even better when he adds match sharpness to his locker.
“Adrian looked very composed, very assured and proved himself to be a very good defender at the weekend,” Martinez added.
“To be able to come in and make the impact he did was a real positive for us.
“Late in the game, his fitness levels dropped a little – but that’s something he has to work hard on now.
“It’s been a patient process for him, working well in training and performing well in the FA Cup.
“And it’s important now that we help him go onto a level where he can complete 90 minutes.”
Lopez finally joined Latics in December 2010 after a protracted switch from Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna.
And Martinez feels that the patience shown by the player in holding out for his move to Wigan will stand him in good stead as he tries to establish himself in England.
The boss reveaeled: “His personality and character allow him to be himself on the football pitch – nothing fazes him.
“It’s a real strength when you can come in and adapt to the demands of the Premier League in the way Adrian has, and there’s still more to come from him.
“He has the versatility to play across the back.
“In Spain he has played as part of a back-three, and obviously we saw at the weekend how well he fitted into the full-back role.
“Against Bolton in the FA Cup, he played centre-half and did well too.
“And when you can read the game as well as he does you can play in any position – which becomes a real strength for the team.”