PAPISS Demba Cisse’s battling to play his part in Newcastle United’s relegation battle.
The striker has just one more game of his seven-match ban for spitting to serve.
There’s a big difference from running with the medical people to coming in and joining in with the physical stuff
But Cisse is not certain to be available for next Saturday’s home game against West Bromwich Albion.
The 29-year-old had an operation on his kneecap he fractured late last season - a screw was removed – and he is yet to return to full training.
And United head coach John Carver admits he does not know when Cisse will be ready to play.
“He’s not certain (to be fit for West Brom),” said Carver.
“What I’ve always said is that I’ll be straight, and I don’t know when he’s going to be ready to come back into it.
“I have to say that, but what I will say is that, earlier in the week, he was outside running with the medical people.
“But there’s a big difference from running with the medical people to coming in and joining in with the physical stuff.”
Cisse is Newcastle’s top scorer with 11 goals despite having only featured in 19 games.
And the hope was that he could make a decisive contribution to the 14th-placed club’s efforts to stay in the top flight.
Carver, however, is cautious in his assessment of Cisse’s readiness to return this season, though the Senegal international is said to be “positive” in his own mind.
Asked if Cisse would miss the rest of the campaign, Carver said: “I hope not.
“He’s quite positive about this whole situation, so let’s not write him off.
“He’s been really positive about it, and we might have to use him like Siem (de Jong) in the last 20 minutes or half an hour to come off the bench, get in the six-yard box and get a goal.
“We might have to use him that way.
“But what we’re not going to do is put his health at risk by doing something stupid.”
Alan Pardew, Carver’s predecessor, used Cisse sparingly in the early part of the season in the belief that he was being hampered by the screw which had been inserted into his knee.
Carver, having watched Cisse run with the club’s medical team, feels the procedure has resolved that issue.
Carver said: “The one thing I will say is I think when he was playing it was blatantly obvious he had a little bit of an issue and a bit of a limp.
“That limp’s gone now, so that’s good news.”
Carver hopes Cisse will soon rejoin his team-mates on the training field.
“He’s working with the medical team at the moment – he’s not 100 per cent – and he’s not joined in with us yet with any football,” he said.
“We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Cisse and Jonny Evans were both banned for seven games for spitting at each other during in Manchester United’s 1-0 win at St James’s Park on March 4.