If Birmingham City are to achieve Premiership survival, keeping striker Mikael Forssell fit is absolutely vital, according to manager Alex McLeish.
The 26-year-old Finnish striker has become a talismatic figure for Blues. When Forssell is fit and playing well, Birmingham generally play well.
He was integral in Blues' most successful season for decades in 2003-04 when the then on-loan striker scored 17 Premiership goals.
Since then a mixture of injuries and loss of form has meant Forssell has played only a piecemeal role and has almost left St Andrew's on two occasions.
However, after dropping to the bench for the 3-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers last Saturday, Forssell returned to the side against Middlesbrough on Boxing Day and scored his fourth league goal of the season in a vital 3-0 victory.
McLeish is determined to keep his star player fit.
"Forssell is a quality striker," he said. "In training I have never seen a guy get off so many shots. It is no surprise to see him score.
"We are going to wrap him up in cotton wool and try to make sure he has the edge all the way to the end of the season.
"We thought about putting him on at Bolton but we decided to keep him ready for Middlesbrough, and it worked."
While McLeish has demonstrated he is not scared to leave players out if they don't fit in with a particular game plan, as he did by dropping Forssell for the Bolton game, the Finn is appealing for a good run in the side so he can redis-cover his best form.
While out of favour under Steve Bruce, Forssell had been honing his skills in the reserves to devastating effect and, though the former Chelsea striker admits he is not one of the Premiership stars who feel reserve football is beneath them, he said McLeish's first team was the only place he wanted to play.
"I was delighted to be back in the side. I was in the team against Reading and was hoping to be involved against Bolton but I wasn't," Forssell said. "That was the manager's decision and I have to respect that, but I was back in against Middlesbrough and to score a goal was fantastic.
"I feel I am getting my confidence back. When you play Premiership games you make decisions and improve the more you play. You remember how to play properly.
"I haven't always been injured, I just haven't been picked, so for me to get a proper chance now from the manager is great.
"You need a run of games to get match-fit. I have been playing reserve games and scoring goals and that is the first step back.
"It is important to play because games are different to training. You need to make certain runs in the game because you can't replicate that in training.
"About six weeks ago I played three reserve-team games and scored seven goals, and that was vital for my fitness.
"I love playing with the young lads because they are enthusiastic and you go in with the same attitude because you want to get back into the first team.
"You want to play for yourself and you train for yourself. All that work is in the bank. I hope that scoring goals and putting in performances will help convince the manager to keep me in the team.
"We will see now because we have three games in six days but I want to be in the team for Saturday."
Forssell said the victory over Middlesbrough relieved some of the pressure on Blues after a run of four defeats in seven games and gave them confidence going into tomorrow's vital home clash with beleaguered Fulham.
The Londoners have slipped into the bottom three, and Blues will be looking to increase the present four-point gap between themselves and Fulham.
"We knew we needed a good result against Middlesbrough and now we need to do it again against Fulham," he said. "That would mean a lot to us and it is necessary that we do get a win going into the New Year with games against Manchester United and Arsenal coming up.
"It was vital to get the win and if we can pick up another three points against Fulham we can go into those tough games with no pressure.
"We can just relax and play."
McLeish says positive thinking is key.
"We must ensure that the players do not see each game as a threat. It is a challenge," he said. "We played with a bit of a freedom against Middlesbrough - and if we can take away that apprehension it will enable them to grow in belief in their own ability."