Fabio Borini is aiming to make up for lost time and play his part in helping Sunderland get out of trouble, writes Richard Mennear.
The forward returned to the Sunderland side for the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea having missed three-and-a-half months with a serious thigh injury.
Borini had been out since the end of August after his adductor muscle detached from the bone during the second half of the 1-1 draw with Southampton.
He has spoken of his frustration at having to miss a large chunk of the season, with bottom-of-the-table Sunderland again battling against the drop.
But now he is back fit and determined to play a big role in helping the Black Cats pull themselves out of trouble.
Borini said: “It was tough for me because I always want to play - even if I only have one leg!
“I will always try to play but yes it has been a tough period because you see your teammates doing what you love to do.
“And you just want to be out there playing too.
“It was unusual because the tendon just pulled off my bone, it wasn’t a normal injury.
“It wasn’t a normal muscle injury, it was a really serious injury.
“It has been frustrating because I have had a few setbacks during the injury, to be honest I was a little bit delayed.
“But it has gone now and mentally I am over it and that is all that matters.”
His return is a timely boost for David Moyes, with Sunderland again struggling with injuries ahead of the busy festive season.
With Victor Anichebe and Steven Pienaar missing the Chelsea game and Duncan Watmore out for the season, Borini was handed his first start at home this season.
The 25-year-old Italian played 82 minutes before being replaced by Wahbi Khazri.
And he felt good on his return to the starting line-up.
“I was waiting for the opportunity, I have worked for it,” added Borini, ahead of tomorrow’s home match with Watford at the Stadium of Light.
“I think I deserve to be in the team and it was good to almost play the whole game.
“I didn’t feel that tired as you would expect after three-and-a-half months out.
“It was good and it was also the first time I was playing at home this season, it was a good feeling.
“I am naturally fit as the manager said and the staff know that. It wasn’t a problem to play 82 minutes in my first game back.
“I have worked really hard for this. That is what I am all about.
“There is always a little bit of concern due to the injury but once you get over that mentally and you are not scared about putting tackles in or jumping for headers then you are fine.”