SOUTHEND United defender Julian Bennett has stepped up his rehabilitation from a cruciate ligament injury and hopes to be back in action before the end of the season.

The 29-year-old has been sidelined since August with the knee problem he sustained in the Capital One Cup defeat to Yeovil Town.

But he has now resumed running and is desperate to continue making good progress.

“When you are in the gym every day and spending time on the treatment table it does get to you but once you get back out running you immediately feel more involved,” said Bennett.

“You’re out on the grass while the rest of the lads are training and, obviously you’re not involved in that yet, but you know you’re getting close to the goal of being fit and available for selection again which gives you hope.

“The lease of life you get pushes you on and I’ll just keep on working as hard as I can.

“We’ll have to wait and see how quickly I can get back to full fitness but I would love to play some part towards the end of the season if it’s possible.”

In the meantime the former Nottingham Forest defender, who can play at both centre-back and left-back, will continue to work closely with Blues’ medical team.

And he is full of praise for the treatment he has received.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the staff at the club,” said Bennett.

“The physio Ben Clarkson works so hard every day making sure all the lads are free from injury and he’s been fantastic with me.

“All of the staff have been to be honest and I can’t thank them enough for the work they’ve been doing to get me back fit.

“Never once have I felt like I didn’t belong or it wasn’t my place to be, even though I was injured.

“I get on well with all the players and it’s such a close group that everyone is made to feel part of it.”

Bennett feels that has been one of the main reasons for Blues’ success so far this season.

And he has every confidence in them securing a return to League One.

“I knew straight away here that promotion was a real possibility because I’ve seen that sort of atmosphere before in my career,” said Bennett.

“A promotion squad has a special bond and belief and I’ve seen that here from the minute I joined up with the squad in Madrid.”