Anthony Gardner is hoping his injury problems are behind him following his big contribution to our successful pre-season.
The central defender was hampered by a niggling foot injury for much of last term, a blow for the England international who clocked up 40 games in the previous season.
The broken nose sustained by Michael Dawson in our Peace Cup opener in South Korea opened the door for Anthony to re-stake his claim for a starting berth and he completed three full games in the tournament before again linking up with Ledley King in the victory at Reading last week.
"The most positive thing is my foot is feeling good and I have been able to play a few games," he reflected. "To play is what you aim to do at this stage to get yourself ready for the season so I am happy with things.
"I came in over the summer quite a bit to make sure I didn't come back with the foot problems. My fitness is not bad and I am heading in the right direction - I am hoping my fitness will be right up to scratch come the first game."
Anthony hopes the pendulum swings back in his favour - injury-wise - and he can again put a lengthy run of games together. He knows, however, that the competition for places is very strong at the heart of defence, with himself, Ledley, Michael Dawson, Calum Davenport and Noureddine Naybet all seeking selection.
"Football is funny like that and it is all about trying to stay fit really and play as many games as you can," he added. "Sometimes it happens for you and sometimes you have bad luck.
"It is then about coming back, getting your mind and body right and being ready to play when you get the chance.
"We've got good competition, we're all capable lads and it bodes well for the team. It is down to the individual to go out there and show what you can do.
"Everyone gets on well but what we all want to do is play football. There is competition for places and you've got to work hard to get yourself in there."
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