CLARKE CARLISLE has set his sights on making his Premiership debut after continuing his return from injury on Monday night.

The defender got another 90 minutes under his belt for the Reserves against Fulham's second string after spending ten months on the sidelines with a thigh injury.

Aidy Boothroyd has hinted that he may send Carlisle out on loan for some match practice and the former England Under-21 international still feels there is enough time for him to make his bow at the top level.

"The plan is to get out on loan as soon as possible and get a month's competitive football under my belt and prove to the gaffer that I'm ready and able for the Premiership," said Carlisle. "It's great to be back - I've been wanting to get back into the fold for a while."

Should Carlisle make a full recovery, as is expected, then he may save Boothroyd having to spend some of the funds burning a hole in his pocket on a new defender.

Carlisle was one of the leading figures in the club's promotion-winning season until he was struck down by what looked a straightforward muscle tear against QPR, his former club, last April. However, that was just the start of the problem.

"I never thought I'd be out this long," recalled the articulate Carlisle. "When we assessed the injury we thought I'd be fit for the play-offs. It was diagnosed as a tear in the muscle, which is what it was.

"Then, on repair, my body laid down bone instead of scar tissue so there were bits of bone growing in the muscle and we didn't know that for three or four months. Once that came to light we were able to deal with and just when they started to treat that, I tore my hamstring.

"It's been quite a long road for me with set-backs all along the way," added the 27-year-old. "It's not been a straight forward ten months.

"It has been quite a struggle and missing out on the Premiership and the Play-off Final has been quite hard to swallow."

What with being out with for 20 months with a knee injury and going through a well-publicised battle with alcohol, Carlisle has not had it easy, but his experiences have enabled him to cope with adversity and put a positive spin on life.

"It's an injury at the end of the day, there is more to life than football and the light always appears at the end of the tunnel," he said, "It was just a case of keeping my head level and my feet on the ground.

"It enabled me to spend a lot of time with my wife and my family and not let life get on top of me. These things happen and I've just stayed positive and keep focusing on the positives all the time."

Describing himself "as the worst football watcher on earth", Carlisle has been spotted regularly looking on from the East Stand on matchdays and he will be glad when those days are finally behind him.

"The hardest days to deal with were match days, especially when I just had to sit and watch on the sidelines," Carlisle said. "You just feel so helpless. I'm not saying I could have made all the difference but not being able to join in and help was very difficult.

"I feel in good shape now. I'm doing a lot of fitness work and the physio and the conditioning guys are working really hard with me to make sure I'm in peak condition.

"I'm well on the road to recovery and let's hope I can be an influential part of how the team progresses."