Andy Carroll may have made his West Ham United comeback on Saturday, but Sam Allardyce insists that the striker is far from being at full-fitness yet.
The England international came off the substitutes' bench to make his first appearance of the season against Aston Villa, but he was not able to fire his side to three points.
Instead the Hammers were left frustrated as a resolute Villa defence kept them at bay to keep the scoreline locked a 0-0.
It is a point which has pushed Allardyce's men into the top four, but still feels like a missed opportunity.
Carroll had two chances late-on, as he looked to make a dramatic comeback, but he was kept at bay by the brilliance of Brad Guzan.
He may have been able to take them had he been at full-flow, though, and Allardyce admits that this period of the season is having to act as a pre-season for the striker, because he missed having the opportunity to play during the summer.
"He's still five or six games away from being fully fit," Allardyce said to the club's official site. "It's pre-season for him really, so we'll gradually increase his pitch time and see how he copes and how quickly he recovers."
"We need to be careful that we don't rush him back too quickly because we don't want to risk him getting injured again. Thankfully our squad is working well at the moment and that gives me the freedom to slowly work him back into the side. We'll take each week as it comes and go by a game by game basis."
Carroll's path back into the starting line-up appears blocked at the moment, due to the form of the side in his absence.
The partnership formed by Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho up-front has been one of the most important reasons behind the club's climb into the top four and Carroll will have his work cut out to dislodge either of the summer signings.
It means that he may get used to be used a plan-b, as he was at the weekend, when the side are chasing results.
Carroll should be aided more than most by the international break, as it helps him recover even more, but he will need game-time to be fully match-sharp and he will be hoping to play a part in the Hammers next match against Everton.