Fit-again Aston Villa defender Wilfred Bouma wants to gatecrash the Carling Cup final against Manchester United after 19 months on the sidelines.
Bouma made his latest comeback when he completed 90 minutes for the reserves against Chelsea at Villa Park on Monday.
The left-back had suffered a dislocated ankle before a toe injury in October further delayed his comeback. But now Bouma is hoping he can be part of Martin O'Neill's plans for the Wembley meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson's side on February 28.
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"I am working every day really hard. It's up to me to get fit, then it will be up to the manager whether he needs me to be involved (in the Carling Cup)," said Bouma.
"But obviously that's something that's still in my head because it's something that won't come along very often. This is a final and, if I can be part of that, I would be thrilled.
"I will take one step at a time and I just want to get back as quick as possible. If I am involved with the boys (at Wembley) that would be great.
"I am really glad Villa are doing so well but, because I was injured for such a long time, I just want to be back and part of things again."
Bouma, 31, was determined to remain upbeat during his lengthy absence.
He added: "Was it hard to stay positive? Sometimes yes, but then if you've got a goal - and that's what I had - it can help you.
"I knew in my mind what I wanted to achieve, and that was getting back out on the pitch and being part of the first team again.
"I knew it would take a while. I just had to work hard. The toe injury in training didn't come at a good time but then injuries never come at a good time. It's now behind me."
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