BOSS Ralph Hasenhuttl admits it would feel like a "miracle" if forgotten man Sam McQueen were to return to a football pitch.

The 26-year-old has endured injury hell over the past three years, not playing a competitive game since suffering a serious knee injury during a loan spell with Middlesbrough in October 2018.

Having ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament, screws inserted during surgery to help repair the problem became infected, providing a huge setback to the former England under-21 international.

Most expected the Saints academy graduate to be among the list of players released by the club upon the expiry of his contract this summer, but his name was not included.

Reports suggest Saints are happy to allow McQueen to continue to use the club's facilities to aid in his recovery before they decide on next steps for the Southampton-born ace, who has been with the St Mary's side for close to two decades.

Having come up through the youth ranks, McQueen has played 29 first-team matches for Saints in the Premier League, domestic cups and Europa League.

Whether he will add to that tally is still unclear, but the left-back was spotted with Saints' first-team squad this week, pictured cycling in the New Forest with the group as part of their pre-season preparations.

Discussing McQueen's lengthy recovery, Hasenhuttl said: "His knee is good. He had some other problems, it’s a very long story to be honest.

"I’ve never had a situation where I was coming to a club and never see a player playing for two-and-a-half years now.

"Since I’m here I’ve never seen him on the pitch. But when you know the infection in his knee and how things were going on then it's even now like a wonder that he’s still able to play football or will be maybe one time able to play football again.

"And finally, we don’t know if he will ever return back to the pitch but if (he does) then it's a miracle."

Hasenhuttl will later this month take his squad to Wales for a five-day training camp, incorporating friendly matches against Championship duo Cardiff City and Swansea City.