Tom Heaton will be stepping back into a “better environment” in training at Aston Villa, according to Michael Brown.

The former Premier League midfielder, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, insists it will be a while before fans see the goalkeeper in action again but that the positive atmosphere around training will help his recovery.

Speaking to the Express and Star, manager Dean Smith confirmed that the 34-year-old is set to return to full training next week after more than 10 months out with a serious knee injury.

Heaton suffered a cruciate ligament injury on New Year’s Day and has not featured for the Villans since.

Brown has urged supporters to be patient over his comeback and insists that the goalkeeping situation is in good hands with Emiliano Martinez between the sticks.

Brown told Football Insider: “It’s just nice, someone who’s been missed like that, who’s had their worries for such a long time. 

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“It’s going to take a while for him, I think that’s what we’ve got to understand. It’s not going to be straight back in.

“What’s good is that the goalkeeper situation is in hand, they’ll be delighted with the way they set off and it’s a better environment for Heaton to come into.” 

Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton

Smith told the Express and Star: “Tom is back working with Neil Cutler now. I am expecting him to be with our group next week and we are looking to get him some practice games.

“When he is back and flying he will give me a great problem and one I enjoy having.”

In other Aston Villa news, Football Insider pundit claims Smith will be hurting after major midfielder reveal.