RETURNING forward Marc Richards could be back on the pitch before the end of the month after experiencing an extremely successful recovery period on a shoulder injury.

Fitness levels established after two weeks of intensive pre-season training counted for nothing for the experienced forward after he landed awkwardly during Town’s pre-season contest against Melksham in early July.

It was feared the former Northampton striker would be out for as long as three months, but Richards’ recovery process has been hastened following a successful operation.

He has now returned to training, though he’s not yet in the position to train with full contact.

He said: “Initial reports from the physio said it could be up to three months that I’d be out.

“But I had the operation and thoughts are now more towards a return after six weeks, I’m at the four-week stage now and progressing quite nicely.

“I’ve been back out on the training pitches for a good week now and have been training with the lads which is nice.

“It’s not been full contact at all, I’ve had no contact on my shoulder at all.

“That’s one of the things I’ve been trying to stay away from.

“That stage will come towards the end of this week, maybe the start of next week. We’ll put together some matchday scenarios, but at the moment it’s just been fitness, ball and strength work.”

Richards, whose contract at the County Ground runs out at the end of this season, is mixing his time this season training with the Town squad while also coaching Northampton Town’s U14s.

Living in Northampton and travelling to Swindon on a regular basis has proved no chore for the Wolverhampton-born striker, who admits he has been frustrated by his latest injury problem.

But with a return to the field on the horizon, Richards is keen not to cut any corners when it comes to making a return to match-fitness levels.

He said: “I’ve got a pre-season to catch up on, I’ve got to do as much work as I can now in the next two weeks to make sure that I’m ready for that six-week mark.

“The first three weeks I was in a sling and couldn’t do anything because of the stitches, I just had to let the wound heal.

“I lost the two weeks I completed in pre-season, it was a case of starting all over again – and that was the biggest frustration.

“The first two weeks are the hardest two weeks, and now I’m going to have to go through all of that again. That’s the toughest thing.”