Lee Hendrie was insistent that he still had a future in the Premiership when he dropped a division to leave Villa Park and go out on loan to Stoke City last month.

Already he has hit the high spots with the Potters to such an extent that Villa manager Martin O'Neill may soon have him back banging on his door.

Stunning goals for Stoke in their last two matches have not only revitalised Tony Pulis's Championship side, they may also just have kick-started Hendrie's flagging career again.

"Lee is a smashing lad," Stoke boss Pulis said. "And I'm very pleased to have him. He has that little bit of quality everyone in this league is looking for, his goals have been great. And the players have taken to him."

Admittedly, after making an under-stated debut in a 1-1 draw with Preston three weeks ago, Hendrie was conspicuous by his absence when Pulis took advantage of the international break to pack his players off for a bit of a boot camp bonding at a tough commando training centre in Devon.

But, having cited a prior engagement for that, Hendrie has since proved his importance by doing the business where it counts most . . .  on the football pitch.

After setting Stoke on their way with a stunning early free-kick goal to trigger a 4-0 demolition of Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday, Hendrie scored the equaliser on Tuesday night as the Potters came from behind to beat Roy Keane's Sunderland 2-1.

But Hendrie, six months on from his last Villa start having fallen out of favour under David O'Leary and his successor O'Neill, has made it clear that he sees his stay at the Britannia Stadium merely as a stepping stone back to the big time with rejuvenated Villa.

"I really want to get back on track," he said. "I feel I have a lot of football to offer. And I'd love to finish my career at Villa. That's where my heart is.

"I've spoken to so many Villa fans who have said 'Don't leave'.

"But I've not been playing football and that's what I want to do. I've always said that seeing my career out at Villa would be an honour for me, so we'll see.

"It has probably been the worst time of my career.  You find yourself not playing and your confidence goes, but that comes as a package.

"If you're not playing, you think you're not good enough. And that's why I wanted to come and play at Stoke — to get that lift back and rebuild my confidence."

Open-minded O'Neill, aware that it was at this time only two seasons ago when Hendrie was in the Villa team scoring similarly fabulous goals for fun, certainly has not closed the door on the once-capped former England midfielder.

"There is no doubt a fit Lee Hendrie has as good a chance as anyone of getting into the team," O'Neill said. "He just needs games and hopefully he'll come back firing and ready to go."