Palace defender Paddy McCarthy is determined to win back his first team place after completing his first 45 minutes in over a year against Dulwich Hamlet.
The Irish centre-back came through the first half of Tuesday’s match at Champion Hill unscathed, as he stepped up his recovery from the groin injury that ruled him out for the entire 2012/13 campaign.
And the 30-year-old is aiming to get more minutes under his belt against Lazio on Saturday, as he attempts to impress manager Ian Holloway and get back in the Eagles’ starting XI.
Speaking to cpfc.co.uk after the 4-1 victory at Dulwich, Paddy said: “I’m feeling good, I’ve had a full pre-season and it’s just all about getting minutes under my belt. It feels great to be back out there with the lads and playing football again.
“I feel fine. I’ve done a lot of hard work over the last three months and over the summer while the lads were off, in the gym and with the physios. It was frustrating last year, but it’s hopefully all behind me now.
“I’m feeling fit and strong and as I said it’s about getting minutes under my belt and pushing to get back in the team.
“That’s going to be challenge, it always is a challenge at any football club. There’s competition for places, there always has been. That will never change. But as I said, I’m feeling fit now, fit and ready for the challenge ahead. I just need to get minutes under my belt and prove to the manager that I’m capable of getting back in the side. That’s my aim at the minute.
“Any player will tell you that injuries are frustrating and especially to miss a whole season of your career. But it makes it all that bit sweeter going out onto the pitch now and I’m certainly going to enjoy the rest of my career after knowing how bad it feels to be out injured for such a long time.”
Paddy reflected on his season out of the game and looked ahead to life in the Premier League, adding: “A lot of positive changes have happened. Obviously promotion to the Premier League was excellent and it’s something that we are all going to look forward to and go into with a positive attitude.
“We’ve worked really hard pre-season to get us fit and ready for what’s going to be a tough adventure for us, but one that’s really exciting and one I’m really looking forward to.
“We’ve obviously had a couple of big losses to our team from last year. Glenn Murray will obviously be a big miss, but we’ve brought in Gayley from Peterborough who’s scored goals and done really well for Peterborough last season, and obviously Wilf [Zaha] will be a big loss as well.
“But we’ve replaced them with players and as far as I’m aware the club are looking to strengthen the squad even more. We’ve got a great nucleus of lads who will stick together through thick and thin and I think that will be the key to our success this year.”