DAVID Unsworth is backing fit-again Hallam Hope to be a big player for Latics this season.

The forward is available for selection this weekend for the first time since being the victim of what the club described as a "vicious assault" following the home defeat to Chesterfield in early September.

Hope needed hospital treatment for "serious injuries" following the attack in the club car park next to Boundary Park, for which a 27-year-old man was arrested by Greater Manchester Police on September 9 and released under investigation.

But former Everton trainee and Carlisle striker Hope is ready to put it all behind him and get back on the pitch after completing his rehabilitation and returning to full training two months after the incident.

"It's great to have Hallam Hope available," said Latics boss Unsworth.

"He's flying in training. He's passed all the different stages you have to do from a concussion side. You come back and you do a certain amount of rehab and then you go non-contact then you go partial contact and this week he's been in full contact and he looks great.

"I'm delighted to have Hallam back. Obviously I've known him from my Everton days and he's a great kid and a top player."

Hope had been in form with three goals in seven games before his lay-off, and Unsworth added:"I saw some of the early games this season and saw him score the late winner against Aldershot.

"He's been in good goalscoring form and he's a big threat at this level, and played higher, so he's going to be a big player for us moving forward.

"It's like a new signing for us, so that's effectively two new signings this week with getting Mark Kitching in the building as well.

"It adds to the group. It's small wins every day and that's what you've got to do when you're building and moving a big tanker, you've just got to try to make small changes every day and make you better.

"As soon as you get on a run it's the easiest job in the world, but at the moment we're suffering a bit of pain. We are taking some big hits, but you've just got to keep going, there's no other choice, and I wouldn't ever stop working hard. We're working round the clock and I love what I do, but the final piece of the jigsaw is winning the games and going on a run. I have no doubt in my mind that will come, and we'll get it right."