Matthew Upson may have been sidelined for the last two months of Birmingham City's relegation campaign but he hasn't wished his life away.

The England centre-half continued his road to recovery last night with an appearance for the reserves against Wolverhampton Wanderers and is in serious contention for the Premiership derby with Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday.

Despite Birmingham's improvements at the heart of their defence there is no denying they have missed this conscientious and thoughtful defender. Back page headlines are the last place you will find him. He admits to becoming a student of the finer things in football.

That has included a lengthy stint on his sofa watching former employees Arsenal take Europe by storm with their brand of aesthetically pleasing football.

"I tend not to watch too much football on television because it can be overwhelming but I do enjoy watching Champions' League football," he said, full of admiration for Arsenal's surge into the semi-finals.

"I will make time in my schedule to watch Champions' League. It's where you want to be; it's where I want to get back to.

"It would be great if Birmingham City could play in Europe; that would be fantastic.

"Every player looks at those matches and understands they are some of the best in the world. The standard might even be better than in World Cup matches. I'm relaxed watching them; I'm not sitting there kicking a ball around the lounge.

"It's a big learning opportunity, watching that kind of football. Don't get me wrong, the Champions' League is where I want to be playing my football but I'm on a different road from the one I was on three years ago," Upson said, referring to his days at Arsenal.

"I've chosen a different path and I haven't regretted for one minute the conscious decision I made back then to leave. I am taking all the positives out of that I could I have done."

Upson has undoubtedly progressed under the shrewd tutelage of Steve Bruce. A fellow member of the centrehalfs union, Bruce has improved Upson's defensive awareness and has adopted a more robust style.

For Birmingham to hold on to the much-coveted Upson Premiership football is the minimum requirement next season. It would be unthinkable for Upson to be plying his trade in the Championship next season irrespective of whether the club invoke a clause in his contract.

Yet Upson is more than happy to be involved in the heat of a relegation battle and there is no inclination that his mind is focused on anything other than the job in hand. "I have got a high drive and ambition and want to get the maximum I can," he said.

* Blues overcame Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Barclays Premiership Reserve League North 2-0 at Damson Parkway last night thanks to goals from Marcus Painter and Oliver Allen.