Calum Davenport is in the "best physical condition possible" and is ready to play his part for West Ham United when the Barclays Premier League campaign begins.
The 25-year-old defender, who has not played for the club since 4 March 2007, has proved he has overcome the neck injury suffered at the start of a loan spell at Watford back on 19 January with some sterling displays during pre-season. With Anton Ferdinand set to miss out on Saturday's visit of Wigan Athletic, Davenport looks likely to partner Matthew Upson at the heart of the home defence.
At the time Davenport was sidelined there were initial fears about the extent of the injury but he has seen no ill-effects since returning to training towards the end of the last campaign. In fact, the experience is being viewed as a positive. He said: "I'm probably in the best physical condition I've been in during my career. I am physically and mentally stronger and hopefully I can bring that into the games now."
"Before the [injury] the team were going really well so I was well down the pecking order and obviously then the injury happened. It is not that I didn't take my job seriously before but I think I've just gone up a level or two in terms of how serious I am now in terms of where I want to be. That is playing for West Ham and performing well at the highest level."
That dedication has seen him a regular at Chadwell Heath over the summer and he carried that on with appearances in all but one of the pre-season fixtures - and a goal in the 2-2 draw at Southampton. "With the lads being off over the summer I stayed back and worked as hard as possible to try and get back in the manager's plans," he added. What has also helped is the number of well-wishers and messages of support that have come his way during what was originally a tough time.
He said: "If I had a penny for every time I've been asked 'how is your neck', I think I would be a millionaire. Obviously I've had a lot of support around me and in and around the club. Lots of people have been around me helping me get back to the best shape, especially physically, so a special thanks to them because they've helped me through what has been a difficult six months."
Describing the sensation in his neck when he suffered the injury as feeling like "breaking a stick", he said there were no signs of any problems - having received expert medical advice and fully rested before getting back into action. "I've got no stiffness, touch wood I've been very lucky. It's all behind me now so hopefully I can kick on and have a good season. It's not about me. It's about helping the team which obviously I'm delighted with.
"It is important obviously to get off to a winning start and making sure the team plays well and if everyone plays their part hopefully we'll get the right result. I've got full confidence in where I am and where I want to be. I've just gone about what I want to do quietly and like I say hopefully I can carry that into the games now and personally get off to a good start and most importantly the team get off to a good start."