SHAUN Barker is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel in his recovery from a shattered knee.
"I feel I am in the best place I've been with my rehab in the past 18 months," said the Derby County defender.
Barker's football world came to a juddering halt when he was injured playing for the Rams against rivals Nottingham Forest at Pride Park Stadium in March 2012.
The horrific injury left him with a dislocated kneecap and ruptured medial ligament, anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament as well as damage to his patella femoral ligament.
His road to recovery has been long and he has some way still to travel but the 30-year-old has made good progress since his last operation eight weeks ago when the specialist checked inside his knee and removed some staples and screws.
"I have had four or five weeks of working the knee with more intensive rehab," said Barker.
"I went to have my knee drained on Friday of last week and had another steroid injection, and the difference in the last three or four days compared to any time before in my rehab is quite astounding.
"I feel good and I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel rather than just believing there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"I'm starting to feel like things are really coming together.
"The swelling has stayed off my knee so far and as long as that is the case in the next couple of weeks then I will be progressing and doing more work."
No date has been set for a return to action but Barker is determined to be doing some work on the training pitch around Christmas and he is keen to play a large chunk of the second half of the season.
"I have always remained positive, and there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't be positive," he said.
"I've seen one of the best surgeons in the world and he is pleased with how the knee is looking.
"Yes, it has been frustrating at times because at every stage of my rehab I have had positive news from the surgeons that everything internally looks good but my knee wasn't really showing the signs of improvement I was hoping for.
"Mentally, I have never struggled with the injury but it can be tough when you keep telling yourself you are going to be fit and you are going to play, but your knee doesn't actually give off the same message.
"Now it's nice that my knee is feeling good as well.
"The last couple of weeks is probably the most positive I have felt because of the reaction of the knee."