STEPHEN Ward says he's confident he can force his way back from injury with Burnley and prove his fitness in time for next month's vital Euro qualifier at home to Poland.
The Irish international has been out of action since December due to an ankle injury and missed the last 13 games for his club.
But Ward, 29, has made good progress following surgery and, having played twice for the Clarets' second string last week, hopes be back in the first team squad for the weekend Premier League clash with Chelsea.
"There's a a month to go before the Poland game but all going well I will fully fit and available for selection. The Polish match was one of my targets but right now my focus is on Chelsea next weekend in the Premier League and I hope to be back for that," Ward told The Herald.
"I am fit and well now, I felt great after training yesterday and hopefully I will be in with a shout of making the team for Chelsea at the weekend.
"It's just good to be back fit again as it was a long couple of months. But the rehab went well and I stepped it up last week, I played 65 minutes for the reserves against Sunderland last Tuesday and then played 90 minutes for them on Friday, I felt good after those games so I can't wait to get back now.
"The physios are happy with how it's gone and they say I'm back earlier than they expected so that's good news," added Ward, who has re-established himself at left back under Martin O'Neill.
"I know the manager will want to see how a few of the Irish lads are around the time of Polish match as a few of us have been out injured, so the aim for me is to get back fully fit, back in the side with my club and hope that I am ready to play against Poland," added Ward, confident his club can avoid the drop.
"We have a hard run ahead of us, Chelsea at the weekend, Liverpool and Man City soon after that, a nice soft run," he jokes.
"But a lot of those games are at our place and we're confident we can take points at home, while we've drawn away to City already and should have beaten United last week."