Michael Dawson has spoken to talkSPORT about his rehabilitation and the arrival of Nottingham Forest’s new management team.
The 35-year-old hasn’t played for the Reds since injuring his hamstring during a 2-0 win over Ipswich Town in December.
He had threatened a comeback just after O’Neill arrived on Trentside, but suffered a setback in his progress.
No timescale is set on his return and with just seven games to go, time is running out for this season.
He told talkSPORT: “It’s been an ongoing joke with the lads to be honest, that I’ll just get back for the actual business end of the season, but we’ll have to see.”
“I am getting close and I’m back on the grass now and kicking balls again.”
New management team
Dawson has been restricted to just 10 appearances this season after making an emotional return to the club during the summer.
Having made all of his appearances under Aitor Karanka, Dawson hasn’t had the chance to impress O’Neill just yet, although the gaffer has made an impression on him.
He continued: “Since they came into the club they’ve been great for us. They have brought a winning mentality and given everyone a lift.
“We’ve now got seven games to try and reach those play-off places.
Dawson does, however, believe that Forest are now in the mix with several clubs for just two spots, in the race to reach the Championship play-offs.
The defender said: “Five or six teams are probably in the mix for two spots now.
“You have to say that Leeds, Norwich, Sheffield United and West Brom are probably competing for the top four, but the other two are there.”
The immediate aim for Dawson is to try and get fit.
Given his age, there is no real rush to try and get him back on the pitch this season.
The popular figure will be chomping at the bit to return, however, but getting himself fit for one final season during 2019/20 might be a more realistic aim.
Dawson spoke of his time out injured, saying: “It’s difficult when you go from training and playing games to not doing any of that and spending three hours a day in the gym.
“When you love football it’s the absolute worst thing in the world and by far the worst thing about being a professional player.
“I would say though that the pros of being a footballer far outweigh the negatives so it’s not all bad.”