WHISPER it quietly, but Andy Bishop feels fit, sharp and is raring to score goals.
Bury fans have heard that before over the past few years, only for the former 20-goal-a-season striker to break down again.
But the 30-year-old front man, who has been troubled by serious knee problems, is hopeful this time will be different after capping his first start in eight matches with a goal.
“It was just relief,” he said of the 25th minute header that laid the foundation for Bury’s 2-0 victory over Doncaster at Gigg Lane.
That was Bishop’s fourth strike of the campaign, although half of those came at Wrexham, where he spent four matches on loan.
“This season has been a bit strange,” he added. “I never had the best of starts, went out on loan and came back feeling great. I had two or three games and I was feeling sharp, then I got a stupid little niggling injury.
“I tore a muscle in the bottom of my foot and it was just a nightmare. It was a nothing injury, but where it was on my foot I couldn’t put any pressure on it.
“So, I’ve sort of come back where I left off really. I feel confident, I feel sharp. Match fitness will come – I was blowing a bit in the last 15 minutes – but I feel good and hopefully that will continue now and I’ll stay injury free.”
That’s the big test, although Bishop is confident there won’t be a re-occurrence of his heel problem after aborting a return in December.
“I took injections before the Southend game in the FA Cup,” he explained. “It just numbed it, then it blew up after the game. It was frightening how big my ankle got, but it’s back to normal now.
“I’ve been training for the last three weeks and there’s been no reaction.”
Bury have missed Bishop’s presence and experience up front, with 19-year-old loan replacement Tom Hopper struggling to maintain his early season form.
Manager Kevin Blackwell was glad to see him back and playing 90 minutes.
“Obviously, Bish gives us that bit more experience, and his finish was first class,” said Blackwell.
“He’s worked his socks off to get back over the past six to eight weeks and he’s run himself into the ground today.”
At times, it seemed like the Bury boss may lose patience with the Shakers legend, who has played more than 220 games for the club.
But, despite occasionally getting a flea in his ear during training, Bishop says he’s enjoying life under the new manager.
“I’ve never been shouted at as much in my life but he’s been superb,” said the Stone-born player.
“He works you hard – you’re fit and you’re strong and you know exactly what you’ve got to do and I suppose that’s what being a manager is all about.”
And, with big games against five of the promotion chasers in February, the big front man is relishing the battle ahead.
“They are tough games but they’re games you want to play in,” he said.
“If you’re not up for these games then you shouldn’t be playing.”