JOHN McGrath has revealed it was something of a surprise to return to first-team training after almost eight months out injured.
The Burton Albion skipper joined up with the rest of his team-mates earlier this week, and is now desperate to force his way back into the team.
He said: “It was my first one in eight months really and it was brilliant.
“It was a bit of a surprise because I didn’t really think I was going to be involved.
“I thought I might do the warm-up, but the physio (James Rowland) took the reins off me a little bit and said ‘go and enjoy it’.
“It was great to be involved with the lads again and hear all the team banter.
“It took me a couple of minutes to get into it, but the lads were great with me.
The 32-year-old Irishman, who has not played since being hurt in the 2-0 defeat at Swindon Town at the end of February, underwent major foot surgery in March, and admitted it had been a tough time.
He said: “The initial operation was hard to deal with — getting your head around being out of the game for seven to eight months.
“But once I got over that I just focused on recovery, and it’s been pretty relentless for me for the last eight weeks, getting to this point.
“There’s no point in rushing it, and an extra two to three weeks won’t make a difference to me.
“I’m playing with a bit of caution, although if it was up to me I’d play on Saturday.”
In his absence, Robbie Weir and Lee Bell have formed a formidable partnership in central midfield, while Jack Dyer has proved an able back-up, and McGrath knows the task ahead of him.
He said: “If I want to get back to the level the lads are at, then hard work is the only way forward.
“Robbie Weir and Lee Bell are playing unbelievably well, and there’s another player in Jack Dyer who’s doing well.”