MATTHEW ETHERINGTON has set his sights on reaching a landmark in his Stoke City career at the weekend . . . after shrugging off a virus which forced him to miss last weekend's defeat at a snowbound Britannia Stadium.
The 30-year-old winger is back in training following the illness and hopes to make his 100th League appearance for the club when City aim to bounce back from the disappointment of the Sunderland defeat at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Etherington was confined to bed for several days with the virus, but it was perhaps a blessing in disguise that he didn't ignore medical advice and try to rush back for the Sunderland game, given the bleak conditions on that occasion.
"It's been an absolute nightmare to be honest with you," he said. "I have had to stay in bed for five or six days watching the results coming in on the TV and it hasn't been enjoyable one bit.
"I haven't really known what to do with myself, because I just want to be out there helping the lads pick up the results, and unfortunately I haven't been able to do that recently.
"It wasn't a pleasant thing to have had, but it seems to have cleared up now and I have finally managed to get back on to the training pitches again this week and touch wood I will be ready to go at Fulham on Saturday."
He added: "I did what I could do be ready at the weekend, but I wasn't well enough in the end. I wanted to give it a go, but I wasn't really ready, and having seen the weather that day I don't think it would have done me any good.
"I would have liked to have been out there helping the lads to try and get the result we all wanted, but in hindsight having seen those conditions it was probably a blessing in disguise that I wasn't involved."
City have slipped down to twelfth place in the Barclays Premier League table following a barren run of results, which has culminated in just six points from eight League games.
That statistic isn't worrying Etherington, however, who says both himself and his team-mates are confident of returning from the forthcoming trip to the capital with all three points.
"We're not going to panic, but we know our form just lately hasn't been good enough - certainly not our home form anyway, and that is something we must address.
"On the road, we have picked up and started to get some good results. Disappointingly, we have slipped up at the Britannia Stadium and it is that which is letting us down a little bit now, rather than our away results.
"We will go to Fulham in good spirits and with confidence though, because like I say we have done well on the road. It will be a tough game for us but we know that it is one we can win."