Newcastle's Steven Taylor is relishing the prospect of a return to first-team action in the summer as he looks to put his injury-hit season behind him.
The defender can see light at the end of the tunnel after removing the protective boot that he was forced to wear for the first few months of his recuperation from rupturing his Achilles against Chelsea in early December.
Taylor is not expected to feature again this season for the Magpies, who are enjoying a fine campaign and currently occupying sixth position in the Premier League.
However, the captain has praised his manager and team-mates for the support that he has received since being sidelined.
"The good thing for me is that I’ve got a manager and a coaching staff who always get me into the dressing room and amongst the lads,” he told The Journal.
“I still feel part of it, which is a massive thing for me. When you get injured you can get forgotten about but fair play to the rest of the lads, they have been spot-on and worked with me every single day.
“I’m out of the boot now, back walking and back in the gym, and back to hard work."
Although the Toon Army are on track for a European place, they have conceded 25 goals in 14 games since Taylor’s absence.
The 26-year-old, who also missed the second half of Newcastle's Championship-winning campaign in 2010, joined his current team-mates for January's trip to Tenerife, an important part of his psychological rehabilitation.
For now, the defender is remaining optimistic on a return back into the first-team picture.
“It’s going to be a long, hard recovery. I know some people say it’s the worst injury you can get as a footballer, but I’m taking it in my stride," said the Greenwich-born centre-back.
"I’m relishing the chance to come back and I can’t wait to come back fitter, stronger and better than I was before. I’m hoping to be involved in the start of the next pre-season.”