MARC WILSON was understandably happy to get back to first-team action last weekend... yet realises there's still some way to go on the road to recovery before he can call himself completely match-fit.
The full-back played all 90 minutes as the Potters slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Fulham thanks to Dimitar Berbatov's superb volley in the televised clash at Craven Cottage.
Wilson had been out for four months after suffering both a broken leg and a dislocated ankle following a freak collision with Sunderland's Steven Fletcher when the two sides met back in November.
He admitted it'll take him time to get up to the speed of top flight football after such a lengthy absence.
"I didn't think I had the best of games, to be honest, but I think I'll improve though, obviously," said the Republic of Ireland international.
"It's a little bit different from when you're playing reserve team games to coming back into the Premier League. All I can do is try and improve in each game and take it from there."
The 25-year-old says the way to deal with any long-term lay-off is to try and stay positive and surround yourself with the right people - something he feels he's managed.
"I think when you're recovering from any long-term injury, the whole part of it is difficult," he added.
"You've got to get your head wrapped round it that it's happened and you've just got to get on with it. It gets you down but it's whether you let it keep you down, or whether you get back up and carry on.
"You've got to keep good people around you like your family and friends, and they can help you get through it."
Wilson says that, naturally, he took longer to recover after last Saturday's game, but he's ready for selection this weekend against a West Ham United team who he's been impressed by under the stewardship of Sam Allardyce.
"I didn't feel my injury afterwards, but I felt stiff, more than I would usually," he said.
"I've had two pre-seasons so far this season! I'm just starting to get back into it now, and hopefully I can have a good run between now and the end of the season.
"I think Big Sam has done a good job for them. Since they've come back, they've done pretty decent this season to be honest.
"When you get down to this stage of the season, it's a difficult time for a lot of Premier League clubs. The teams at the bottom are playing to stay in the league, so everyone's trying to pick up points and that makes it
"They're in a similar position to us but hopefully we can come away with three points on Saturday."