SIMON DAVIES has revealed he walks a daily tightrope over his fitness - and could fall off at any time.
The brutal truth is the Fulham midfielder holds his breath after each training session, hoping he hasn't further damaged a bone in his instep that would plummet him back to square one of a recovery programme that has already passed seven months.
However, the Wales international is ready to grit his teeth to make the subs bench at Birmingham on Saturday - especially as five years ago he scored Everton's winner at St Andrews to kick-start his former side's season.
Davies said: "It's been a really frustrating time. The crack in the bone hasn't healed 100 per cent - but it's healed enough for me to start playing again. And this time it's a lot more promising than it was when I returned before."
The 30-year-old got four appearances in 10 days back in September, and then suffered a recurrence of the injury that's as near to catch-22 as makes no difference.
If Davies trains, he runs the risk of aggravating the navicular bone in his instep. If he doesn't, the bone gets even more brittle and makes it twice as hard to resume playing.
He explained: "It's been a tricky time and something of a balancing act. On a tightrope is exactly the word to explain the way I am right now.
"There have been occasions when it felt great training - but after, it's a bit tender.
"And the first time I returned, I wasn't really confident and when I played it went pretty much downhill from there.
"I had two screws put in to help it heal, because that part of the body doesn't get much oxygen to it."
As far as his season goes, Davies has targeted 20 appearances once he's back to full fitness - but knows he faces stiff competition to get back into the team from the likes of Zoltan Gera and Damien Duff.
And anyone wondering what Santa could bring the player as an early gift will hardly be surprised by his request. "Can I have a new navicular bone, please, and the transplant operation that goes with it?" he said. [25cf] Fancy tickets to Fulham's next home games - and a special anniversary shirt to boot?
Formed in 1879, Fulham are the oldest of London's first-class clubs and is celebrating its 130-year anniversary this season.
Craven Cottage is steeped in history and generations of supporters have witnessed plenty of drama since Fulham first took residence there back in 1896.
Two important home matches await the Whites at the end of this month which could propel them into the top half of the table - and you can be there to see all the action unfold.
First up is Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday, November 25, followed by Bolton Wanderers three days later on Saturday, November 28.
We're offering two readers the chance to win a limited edition, signed 130-year anniversary shirt, and two tickets to both games.
Simply answer this question: In what year did Fulham move to Craven Cottage?
Email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not one of the lucky winners, tickets for both games are on sale priced from £25 for adults and just £5 for juniors (U16).
To book, call the ticket hotline on 0870 442 1234, see www.fulhamfc.com or visit the ticket office on Stevenage Road (open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, or 10am-noon on Saturdays).