Relieved Joe Newell is putting his injury ordeal behind him to focus on helping Rotherham United climb the Championship table.
The left midfielder spent four months recovering from ankle surgery last spring but is now back in the Millers team who went into the international break in bottom spot.
Newell is confident he and his teammates, who return to action a week tomorrow at Norwich City, will launch a revival under new manager Alan Stubbs.
“The ability is there in the squad, definitely,” he told The Star.
“My fitness feels like it’s getting there. My sharpness and touch are still a bit rusty. I haven’t played much football since April.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard for the team and hopefully we can all turn it round together.”
The 23-year-old has featured in five matches since returning at the end of August and has started the last four.
“It’s good to be back playing,” he added. “I’m buzzing to be in the side.”
Improved performances in their last two matches, a 2-1 defeat at leaders Huddersfield Town and an unlucky 1-0 home loss to third-placed Newcastle United, have raised hopes that Rotherham, with six points from their opening 11 fixtures, are now finding the form which will take them out of the drop zone.
Stubbs, who celebrated his 45th birthday yesterday, is a big admirer of Newell, describing him as “an intelligent player who knows what his next move is before the ball even comes to him”.
But the boss had a tough message for players like Scott Allan, Jake Forster-Caskey, Richard Wood, Kelvin Wilson and Anthony Forde who have been in favour and now find themselves out of the first 11.
“There have been a number of players who have been left out of the team and it’s not been through anything other than we need to perform better,” Stubbs said.
“There have been performances where, when we sit down and look at them, we could and should have done better. I don’t think they can have any gripes. You get an opportunity and it’s down to you.
“Sometimes players complain they haven’t had an opportunity. They’ve had opportunities, virtually every one of them. I think, if they’re being honest, when they look at the performances, they know they haven’t been left out just for the sake of it.”
Meanwhile, former boss Neil Warnock says he decided to leave New York Stadium because he could envisage only another survival battle for the Millers this season.
Warnock, who wants to set an English record by winning an eighth promotion, inspired an 11-match unbeaten run to keep Rotherham up but departed in May and has now taken the hot-seat at Cardiff City who are one place above Stubbs’ men.
“Rotherham are a fabulous club, but I didn’t think it was right to stay on,” the 67-year-old said at his official Bluebirds unveiling. “I’d done my job, I’d kept them up. I thought it was survival at Rotherham rather than push for promotion.
“It’s been an interesting summer for me. I’ve spoken to three or four clubs since the summer. Two went went with foreign managers, one went with an English managr and one have not got a clue what they’re doing.
“I’m looking for a job that can give me my eighth promotion. It’s not impossible here, but it’s difficult when you’re second from bottom.”