EX-England star Kenny Sansom has talked for the first time since the attack that left him fighting for life.
He told family holding a six-week hospital vigil: “I’m in a bad way.”
Friends fear the defender, 61, has permanent brain damage.
But they have been lifted by his recovery.
Former team-mates from Arsenal and Crystal Palace have visited him.
Cops quizzed a man, 60, suspected of attacking Sansom on April 7.
The assault is said to have come after the pair were drinking in the garden of an Exeter house.
A friend said: “Kenny is sitting up and has said a few words. It’s a massive relief. But he is still really ill and badly hurt.”
Another added: “If Kenny is going to recover he is going to need a lot of support and a lot of care.
He may be moved to a rehab centre in Surrey nearer his family, with ex stars offering to pay.