THE pain will be eased in Spain for Stephen O'Donnell as the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter.

While his Partick Thistle team-mates have stepped up their preparations for the new Premiership campaign, progress has been slow and steady for the Firhill defender.

A hip injury that afflicted him for weeks eventually forced him out of action in the closing stages of the season as he was forced to go under the knife to cure a long-standing problem.

Boss Alan Archibald has taken his side to the Continent to gear up for the big kick-off next month and O'Donnell is determined to be involved sooner rather than later as the Jags continue to be put through their paces.

He said: "I had a good couple of weeks off over the summer.

"I have not been able to do too much which was disappointing. I like to come back in pre- season better physically than I ended the season but with the operation that wasn't the case.

"I have been doing my strengthening stuff and I have been able to get back running in the last couple of weeks.

"I am hoping to train with the team by the time we are back from Murcia. There are a couple of hurdles to get over but so far everything has been good.

"The rehab I have been getting is brilliant and hopefully I will be back soon. You can't give a time until you do each step.

"It was frustrating to miss the end of the season but you need to accept it.

"I worked hard during the season to hopefully help the team and I had the belief in the team that we would do it.

"It was disappointing to finish 10th but we stayed up, which was the main aim.

"We were favourites to go down and we finished third bottom so we achieved the main target.

"There is room for improvement this year and places to climb up the league."

With just a month to go before Ross County arrive at Firhill and Thistle begin their second top-flight campaign, time is of the essence for Archibald and his squad as they look to ensure they are no one-season wonders.

The return to full fitness of O'Donnell would be a timely boost, with the Jags rearguard currently down in numbers following the summer departures of Aaron Taylor- Sinclair and Lee Mair.

O'Donnell had formed a key partnership with left-back Taylor-Sinclair in recent seasons and knows he will be hard to replace as Archibald bids to bolster his squad.

He said: "It is a credit to Aaron that he got a great move like that. He is a great player and professional and I wish him all the best at Wigan.

"I don't think you will get many people with a bad word to say about him so I am delighted for him.

"I am sad to see him leave Thistle, the gaffer will be disappointed as well because he was an integral part of the team.

"It is one of these things, it is football. The gaffer has to try and replace him and I am confident he will.

"It will be hard to get a player of the same calibre but hopefully we can bring someone in and improve the squad again."