Bradley Dack believes the team has moved to another level during his time out on the sidelines and says anything short of a top six finish will be a disappointment.

Dack is nearing a return to action after 11 months out, with the attacker revealing the plan is to play two more matches before being considered for his long-awaited return.

In that time out, Dack says Rovers have put together the strongest squad in his three years at the club and in doing so moved from a team in transition to one that expects to challenge for promotion this season.

He has been excited by what he’s seen from the team, acknowledging improvements in the levels of players such as Joe Rothwell and Ben Brereton, and hopes to play his part again within three weeks.

Dack discussed his rehabilitation process, Rovers’ aims for the seasons, and life infront of the cameras, during a revealing interview on the Counter Attack podcast.

On Rovers’ ambitions for the season, he said: “We are pushing to get promoted and I feel like if we were to finish outside the top six everyone in that changing room would see it as a disappointment if we didn’t do what we’d set out to do.

“From what I’ve seen, from the way the boys are playing, everything has gone up another level from when I got injured, it’s like a completely different team. It’s crazy the difference that I’ve seen.

“I feel like this squad is by far the best one when we’ve had since I’ve been at the club.

“There were two or three games (last season) that we should have got results in could have seen us into the top six. It does hurt, although we weren’t at the start of last season thinking ‘we should be in the play-offs, maybe we’ve got an outside chance if we put a run together’. This season the mentality is completely different.

“It is ‘this team has to be in the top six, we’re good enough to be in the top six’. We have proven in the games we’ve played this season that while we might not have been as consistent as we’d have liked, there’s been games where people will be sitting up and taking notice of us.

“People will have looked at us and thought ‘they are a good side’.”

Dack has so far played 45 minutes in a behind closed doors game, with another scheduled next week, with the possibility of a run-out for the Under-23s against Tottenham on December 7.

By then, Dack hopes to be in a position to make his first-team return, with the 26-year-old itching to be part of a team that has scored the most goals in the Championship this term.

He added: “The reason people are talking about us is the brand of football that we’re playing.

“We play attacking football, try and score as many goals as we can, Armstrong, Brereton, Elliott, Dolan, Gallagher, Rothwell, players who are scoring and creating goals and it’s an exciting team to watch.

“Sometimes it takes period of time to get to where you want to get to.

“This is the gaffer’s third year in the Championship with us and now you’re seeing that his ideas are becoming habits. We’re no longer a team in transition, we’ve gone past that and we’re trying to get promoted.”

Dack had hoped to be back within nine months of the injury, sustained in the 0-0 draw with Wigan on December 23 2019, only for a setback in the final stages of his rehabilitation.

A crunching challenge early into his 45 minute outing against Sheffield United gave him renewed confidence in his knee, with the plan moving forward to play two more matches, one of which he will look to play the full game.

“I’ll do 60 or 70 minutes in the next one, then one 90 minutes and then I’ll be back involved with the first-team,” he added.

“It felt so good to get back out there, putting the boots and shinpads back on, it was unreal.

“I didn’t feel that bad, I’ve done so much fitness, I’ve been on the grass for six to eight weeks running so fitness I felt fine.

“But match sharpness, turning, knowing where the ball is going to go, that’s the stuff you can only get by playing games.”