LIVERPOOL vice-captain Jamie Carragher is hopeful his two-month injury lay-off will allow him to finish the season stronger.
The centre-back celebrated his 33rd birthday in January on the sidelines as he recuperated from an operation on a shoulder dislocated at Tottenham in late November.
However, he returned to action three and a half weeks early in February's victory at Chelsea and has played four of the last five matches.
And while Carragher – whose resurgent side comes to Sunderland on March 20 – admits his spell out of the team at one of the busiest times of the year was frustrating he has tried to turn his absence into a plus point.
"You have to look at the positives of an injury in that it gives you a rest and takes you out of the firing line," Carragher told Press Association Sport.
"Maybe you can look back and say 'It's done me good' - but I'd much rather be playing because I love being in the firing line.
"You don't want to be out but sometimes you try to put a silver lining on it and try to kid yourself in your own head because you are devastated when you get injured.
"Any injury comes at a bad time but there were a lot of games when I was injured because it was over Christmas.
"But it has happened now. I have been very lucky with injuries throughout my career and hopefully there won't be too many more.
"Maybe the rest will prove between now and the end of the season that it has helped me."
As the oldest player in Kenny Dalglish's first-team squad, Carragher is aware more than most his days at the highest level are numbered.
But he is keen to carry on playing as long as possible and he pays close attention to his personal fitness.
"You get more mature and have an understanding of how your body works and it is a short career so you have to maximise it as much as possible," he added.
"Fitness was drummed into me when I was growing up and as you get older that becomes more apparent and you have to look after yourself.
"Once you reach 30 people start questioning your fitness or whether you have lost your ability and teams start looking for younger players so you have to look at the fitness side of it."
Carragher's determination to return swiftly helped his speedy recovery, although his surgeon Peter Brownson had to rein him in on occasions.
"The way the medical science side of the game is going now everything is a race to get back as quickly as possible because you want to be on the pitch," said the centre-back.
"When you are playing football you have targets and games to think about but when you are injured you lose that and your focus becomes getting back as quick as possible, that becomes your target.
"It was my nature to push to come back but there was no way Mr Brownson would not have let me come back if it had not been right."
Carragher returned to the £200,000 Bone and Joint Centre at Spire Liverpool Hospital, where he was treated for his recent injury, to officially open the unit last night.
The defender was also presented with a cheque for £3,000 for his 23 Foundation which raises money to benefit the local community.