Kelvin Langmead has returned to full training with the Cobblers but the club will take a highly cautious approach over his return to the first team.
The central defender and club captain suffered a knee injury in a game against Oxford United at Sixfields almost a full year ago which required surgery.
He made a comeback from the injury, playing the final half an hour of the play-off semi-final second leg and being named on the substitutes bench for the Wembley final itself.
But Langmead has since had to have a second surgery and has only now returned to training with the main Sixfields group.
The 28-year-old, who is under contract at Northampton for next season, is desperate to be involved but manager Chris Wilder will not take any risks.
“It’s really good news for him and everyone would love him to be available at some point this season but if he’s not then he’ll be in a good place for next year,” he said.
“He’s doing the majority of the work that the others are doing.
“He didn’t play in the small-sided game we had today (Monday), but he’s done the ball work and he’s working extremely hard.
“He’s done a lot of football-specific stuff, so heading and clearing balls and he’s coming along really well.
“It’s great to see him walking around with a smile on his face because he’s put in a lot of hard work to get to where he is now.”
The difficulty for Langmead is that the club does not run a reserve side and with several Tuesday night fixtures on the schedule, it will be difficult for the club to arrange a run-out for the player.
Wilder admits that in an ideal world he would have five weeks of pre-season training and six or seven matches in which to fully sharpen his fitness.
As it stands, it seems unlikely Langmead will make any matchday squads in what is left of the current campaign.
“There has to be a sensible discussion and a sensible decision,” he said.
“There is no situation where it is worth taking the risk of ending a boy’s career.
“We want him to be confident and settled in his mind that he is ready to play. When he’s ready he’ll get back involved.
“It’s a difficult period because we’ve only got seven weeks of the season left so it will be cutting it fine but who knows?
“He’ll be working extremely hard and will have that in the back of his mind.”