Sidibe ahead of schedule

Stoke striker's fitness boost

Sidibe: Winning fitness battle

Stoke striker Mamady Sidibe is firmly ahead of schedule for a return to first-team action after it was initially feared he would be out for the remainder of the season.

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The Mali international ruptured an Achilles tendon minutes after coming on as a substitute in Stoke's first home game of the season against Tottenham, but months of hard work since have paid dividends and he is expected to be ready to play again by the end of the month.

A clearly relieved Sidibe told the club's official website: "I am feeling fantastic. I've started running, doing a bit of work with the lads and it is just so nice to be out there with them all again."

However, he faces plenty of competition for a regular starting spot with the likes of record signing Kenwyne Jones, Ricardo Fuller, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Tuncay all vying for inclusion up front.

Challenge

Sidibe, though, is relishing the challenge and added: "I know how much hard work is in front of me still because we have great players here now. (The strikers) are as good as this club has had for a long time, so it will be incredibly tough to get back into the first team when I am ready."

Tough it may be, but Sidibe initially feared it would be a lot worse. "It was hard to take, especially when it looked like my season was over before it had really begun," he said.

"All I could do was keep believing and look at how I have come back from these sort of things before. The rehabilitation was very important for me and luckily it has gone to plan so far which means an end is now in sight.

"Hopefully I can keep getting stronger and look to try and get back in the squad before the end of the month. That is my target."