Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien has insisted he feels stronger than ever after making his comeback from his latest serious knee injury.
Essien was a surprise substitute in Saturday's 1-0 Barclays Premier League win over Sunderland, having spent six months on the sidelines after rupturing a cruciate ligament in his right knee during pre-season training.
It was the third such major injury in three years for the 29-year-old, who also missed seven months of the 2008-09 season and half of the following campaign after suffering ligament damage in either knee.
There are understandably fears midfield dynamo Essien may not be the force he once was but he told Chelsea TV: "It's been a long while but I'm always positive and I knew I would come back stronger.
"That's what I did and I was happy to be on the pitch again."
Essien, who is in contention to start Chelsea's game at Norwich tomorrow, added: "It's always good to be back after such a long injury, so I'm very happy to be back."
The Ghana star, who did not return in time to make his country's African Nations Cup squad, admitted patience was the key to his latest comeback.
"We didn't rush anything, we take every day as it comes," he said.
"My physios and doctors are there for me, I've been working hard and I think the hard work has paid off."