Jazz Richards has refused to write off his own season and insists he can still return to help Cardiff City stay in the Premier League.
The Wales defender has not played since last October after constant hamstring injuries.
But despite admitting he rushed back to full training too soon earlier in the campaign, the former Swansea City full-back believes he can return for the run-in that will determine the club’s fate.
“I still have a niggling hamstring injury which is proving hard to shake off,” said Richards, who last played in the victory over Fulham on October 20.
“I was fit for the first half of the season – the first 18 games – but since then I’ve had minor injuries that keep re-occurring. But I’m working hard to get back involved and get back on the pitch.
“I am going to try and get back for the last few matches, but it’s hard to say exactly when. I’m working hard in the gym and out on the training ground. It’s about managing it and making sure it’s right because I’ve come back too soon from it before and it’s not worked.
“This time, I’ve been taking my time and making sure it’s right so that I can be available to help the squad for the last few games.”
In the absence of Richards, Bluebirds manager Neil Warnock has relied on Joe Bennett and Bruno Manga as his go-to full-backs this season.
However, recent injuries to centre-backs Sean Morrison and then Sol Bamba have forced Manga to switch to central defence – leaving the right-back spot as a tussle between Lee Peltier and January recruit Leandro Bacuna.
Richards’ absence has cut down the options on both flanks – as well as cost him his place in the Wales squad – but he insists he is not victim to a long-term serious issue.
“I have normally been quite quick in coming back from injuries. It may not look that way, but it’s because I’ve had a few in quick succession.”
If he does get fit for to play some part in Cardiff’s eight remaining matches, then Richards is convinced they can still scramble clear and avoid relegation back to the Championship.
“We have a very honest group of lads – a great bunch – but it’s hard to put your finger on where we have struggled. But the one thing we do have is the ability to bounce back and surprise a few people. I can’t see why we can’t do that again.
“It was always going to be hard coming up into the Premier League and trying to compete with the top teams.
“We come up against teams who are usually better footballing teams than us. But I don’t think there are many teams who have the heart we have. If we keep believing then I think we have every chance.
“Togetherness is the thing that will get us out of this position. It’s important we stick together and continue to work hard
“There are games left which we can go and win.”