Birmingham City goal hero Mikael Forssell believes he is returning to his peak but claims he can scale even greater heights after producing what his manager described as an 'international-type' performance.
Forssell scored his third goal of the season in Saturday's 1-1 Premier League draw with Reading when he bundled home Fabrice Muamba's early header in a game Blues feel they should have won.
That they didn't was down to an error from Birmingham-born Mat Sadler and their failure to take all three points leaves them perilously close to the relegation places. But there were plenty of positives to take from Alex McLeish's first match at St Andrew's, not least the burgeoning fitness, form and confidence of the club's most dangerous attacker.
It took Forssell just four minutes to mark his first start under the new manager and even though he tired midway through the second period and was replaced by Garry O'Connor, he was a constant threat to the Reading defence. After a succession of knee operations and most recently surgery for a hernia, the man who guided Birmingham to their highest finish in 30 years when he scored 17 times in 2003-04 feels he is an even better player now than he was then.
"Am I as good as I was? Definitely," Forssell said. "The older you get, the more experienced you get but the thing is I need continuous games. I need to play.
"I played nearly 90 minutes against Reading and that is very important for my fitness. I am not talking about my knees or anything like that, just my general fitness because playing games is what gets you back fit.
"I played two games with Finland and one with Portsmouth, so I am not too far off. I've been feeling really good since last season, except for my hernia but that only cost me a couple of
games. I have been feeling good and I want to prove myself and help Birmingham City. My dream year would be to score goals and keep Birmingham in the Premiership. but is all about scoring goals. When I score goals, I help the team. That's why I play football. If I don't score and we win, I'm not happy. That is the way it is."
One man who's happy is McLeish.
Although he would have liked a fifth win of the campaign with which to greet Blues' supporters, the number of chances his team created and the display of a player he has admired for a long time were of some consolation.
McLeish revealed he once tried to take Forssell to Rangers when he was manager at Ibrox: "I tried to buy him when he had gone back to Chelsea after the one season with Birmingham," he said.
"We were keen to gazump Birmingham and it just didn't happen. I think he had such affection for this club that he wanted to come back.
"I've seen him in international football and I know [former Finland manager] Roy Hodgson pretty well and Roy rates him highly - we got an international-type performance today from Mikael.
"We hope we can keep him fit because he is very important to the squad. We definitely look to Mikael to be a big player for us."
Forssell's prospects of regular starts may be hampered by McLeish's apparent predilection for playing 4-5-1 away from home, however. The Scot opted to start just Cameron Jerome in his first two matches at Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, with Forssell coming off the bench.
But the fact that he scored against Steve Coppell's men will aid his cause considerably for this weekend's trip to Bolton Wanderers - a game Birmingham cannot afford to lose if they are to capitalise on an inviting run of fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table.