JAY McEveley is convinced he would not have been able to make such a prompt recovery from knee surgery had he not received treatment at the Villa Stuart rehabilitation centre in Italy.

The full-back, who is closing in on a return to the first team after almost seven weeks out of action, was seen to by Professor Pier Paolo Mariani and his team at the facility on the outskirts of Rome last month - where he had access to state of the art equipment unavailable in Swindon and the surrounding area.

With his comeback almost complete, McEveley told the local media how grateful he was to Mariani and Villa Stuart for ensuring his recovery was both quick and relatively painless.

“He (Mariani) is very good. I got told he was the best around for knees and stuff,” he said.

“The treatment that I got, not only the surgery, was twice a day, working hard, keeping my muscle toned and getting my leg bending.

“It was important that I was out there and it’s helped me massively. It could have been a different story.

“We haven’t got the machines in Swindon to help me do that and it was important that I was out there.”

McEveley underwent a scan recently after feeling some slight pain in the area which had been operated on out in Italy, but the results showed no extra damage and he now hoping to be included in manager Paolo Di Canio’s matchday squads in the not-so-distant future.

“I’ve got over the little niggle that I had last week. To be honest it’s helped me a lot,” he said. “The scar tissue was maybe restricting my movement a bit. I broke it up, moved it around a little, let it settle down and it felt better this week.

“I’ve been working with Claudio (Donatelli, fitness coach) and the team this week and it’s up to the manager when he sees fit, when he sees me in training looking sharp and looking ready, and then he can put me back in the squad.

“I felt very good last week. I’ve had five or six days off training but I feel very good now. I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape to be fair and my fitness is not too bad.”

Meanwhile, Paul Benson’s loan spell at Portsmouth came to an end yesterday, as the striker left Fratton Park following his two-month stay.

The former Charlton man is currently weighing up the offer of a permanent contract, believed to be from League Two side Cheltenham, with Di Canio keen to offload the 33-year-old as he looks to balance the books at the County Ground.

Benson told The News in Portsmouth: “I think Cheltenham have an offer on the table at the moment – a loan with a view to a permanent in the summer – and Swindon are quite keen for me to do that.

“I’ll see how the land lies at Swindon and how it goes from there.”