Wednesday 16 November 2011
Injury-hit midfielder Steven Pienaar is determined to win back a place in Tottenham Hotspur's first team.
After declaring that his injury "nightmare" is finally over, the South Africa international is desperate to stake his claim for a starting slot in Harry Redknapp's in-form team.
Tottenham beat competition from Chelsea to sign Pienaar from Everton in January, but he has only been able to make eight Barclays Premier League appearances since because of a succession of fitness problems.
Pienaar suffered concussion while clashing heads with team-mate Bongani Khumalo in February and he then picked up a groin problem towards the end of last season.
He was confident the problem had gone away, but it flared up again in the club's final pre-season match against Athletic Bilbao and Pienaar was forced to undergo surgery as a result, ruling him out until mid-September.
The 29-year-old suffered further setbacks in his rehabilitation, delaying his return to full fitness.
Pienaar admits his time out was the worst of his career, but he now says he is fully fit and is ready to prove to the Spurs management that he deserves a place in the Club's first XI.
"It's been the most difficult period of my career," said Pienaar. "When you join a new team, you want to start fully fit but I got injured quite early and it slowed down my progress.
"Before the operation we thought we would wait and see how the groin injury developed but it just got worse. I had the operation, things were going well, but then I had two setbacks.
"Sometimes when you try to get back early, that happens. But I'm over the nightmare now so hopefully I can get some minutes."
He added: "When you get injured, you fall down the pecking order. You are basically the bottom of the pile.
"But you have to make sure you get fit, be patient and work hard. I have been working hard and now I'll try to win a place in the team."