Derby manager Steve McClaren has confirmed that George Thorne is in contention to make his return to first-team action against Reading on Saturday.
A cruciate ligament injury picked up in pre-season has prevented Thorne from making an appearance for Derby this campaign, but he played 86 minutes for the club's Under-21 side earlier this week.
It was his third game for the youth team, and McClaren claims that he is ready to give the 22-year-old some time on the pitch in the FA Cup fifth-round tie at the iPro Stadium.
"I want George involved either from the start or on the bench, I don't know which. I definitely want him involved, though," McClaren told the club's website.
"He is at the level now; he has worked his way up to playing 90 minutes with three games of Under-21 football. It's important now that we reintroduce him at the right time."
Derby will be without top scorer Chris Martin due to a hamstring injury.