By Paul Brown
Wilfred Bouma insists match fitness is now the only missing ingredient as he looks for a return to first team action.
Bouma endured 14 months of injury torment as he made his way back from a dislocated ankle.
Having regained fitness in October 2009 he then suffered unbelievable bad luck, picking up an unrelated toe problem.
But now he is back in full training and looking to build up his fitness levels in the coming weeks.
He said: "It's been a long time since I have been able to train.
"I was fit again in October and raring to go but then I picked up what they call a 'turf-toe'. That was really bad luck.
"But now I am training again. It's just so good to be back on the pitches again. It's now a case of getting match fitness.
"To be fair, of course, at times it was hard but when you've got a target in your mind and something you want to achieve, it makes it a little bit easier.
"I just wanted to get back out on those pitches and that kept me going. Hopefully it won't be too long before I am back in the squad again, travelling again and then after that, let's see.
"I'm not really a patient person. But that's all I could do. I had to be patient and work hard. If you don't work hard there's no way back for you. I had to do that - and I will continue doing that.
"It was hard to take. At the start, I got the toe injury and I thought it would only be a couple of weeks but it was worse than we all thought. It was such bad luck but hopefully it makes me even stronger. We will see."
Bouma also praised the support of team-mates, fans and family in getting him through his injury hell.
He added: "It is always good when you go home and forget about it. The last thing you want to do is take your troubles home with you. That was good for me to go back to my family and keep my mind on something else.
"Roddy MacDonald [doctor] and Alan Smith [physio] are like my family now too because I have seen a lot of them over the past couple of months.
"To be fair, sometimes you hear from injured players at other clubs and they tell you they don't feel part of it. At Villa I have been out a long time but I am still in the middle of the group.
"There was never a point where I felt they were leaving me hanging around. That helped me a lot through my rehab and recovery.
"The support of the fans definitely helped too. Whether I was with my family or on my own, if I bumped into a Villa supporter, they would always ask: "How are you? Are you nearly back? We miss you." Believe me - that helped me through.
"The fans really did made a difference. You just want to be back involved and hear them chanting your name again. The first time I come back on the pitch and hear the fans singing it could be a bit emotional."