Chelsea captain John Terry was a surprise inclusion in Tuesday's squad which secured an FA Cup fifth round replay win at Birmingham
The 31-year-old defender made a quicker than expected recovery from knee surgery, and as a result was named on the Blues bench by interim manager Roberto Di Matteo for the midweek clash at St Andrews.
Terry wasn't expected to return to action until March, after initially damaging his knee when he collided with a post in Chelsea's FA Cup third round victory over Portsmouth back in January.
The England international suffered a recurrence of the injury in the build-up to the club's Champions League last-16 first leg clash against Napoli a month later, prompting the need to go under the knife.
"Once I had the operation, I was literally jogging about after two days, which was incredible," Terry told Chelsea TV. "It's down to getting over it mentally as well, that you've had an operation. Once you're clear of that, you can push yourself on.
"I said to the physios, the way things were here, I just wanted to push myself and be involved and try to get back as quickly as possible."
After under-fire manager Andre Villas-Boas was axed from his Chelsea post last weekend, the need for senior players like Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba to pull together and rally the squad is as important as ever.
The situation has made the Stamford Bridge skipper even more determined to get himself fit, and back in contention for the Blues' end of season run-in.
"I've done that, worked really hard in the gym, been on triple sessions going back late in the evening on my own as well - which has been tough," he added.
"The target for myself was always to get back and hopefully be back for the Stoke game, so this is a massive boost for me."