SOUTHEND United defender Jason Demetriou is putting club before country as he bids to regain full fitness.

Demetriou, who underwent two operations on his knee last season, is still working his way back to his best.

And the 31-year-old therefore opted against teaming up with Cyprus for Sunday’s European Championship qualifier with Kazakhstan.

“I spoke to them about everything and just explained how I needed to manage my knee and how I wanted to help the team here,” said Demetriou.

“At this moment in time I’m better off staying here because I think I need to get into a routine with my knee.

“It’s getting there and I just feel as though I need more minutes in matches to really get back to my best.”

But Demetriou is no longer having to play through the pain.

“It’s not really hurting anymore but I just need to rest my knee sometimes,” said the right-back.

“After a hard training session or a match I might have to rest it for a day and I might not be able to train all the time either.

“I might not be able to train on a Monday and a Friday but we just have to do what’s best.

“I must have played 500 games or so by now and it’s just going to be a case of having to manage my knee from now on.”

Demetriou has made six appearances for Blues this season.

And he is eager to help Blues get back to winning ways when they host fellow strugglers AFC Wimbledon at Roots Hall this weekend.

“It’s a massive game and there’s no hiding that really,” said Demetriou.

“People will talk about it being a six-pointer and I guess it is.”

But Blues will be heading into the game on the back of a disappointing 3-1 defeat at Gillingham.

And Demetriou is eager for the Shrimpers to show more strength on Saturday.

“I didn’t think there was much in it on Saturday but then they got a deflected goal and we look frail after we concede,” said the defender.

“It can’t be like that and we have to keep going because we have a good group and some good players.

“We just have to work even harder and do five per cent more individually to get the win we need to boost the confidence.”

Blues have had Gary Waddock as caretaker boss for the past five weeks, following the departure of Kevin Bond.

But Demetriou feels the uncertainty about the managerial position cannot be blamed for the poor form.

“In an ideal situation everything can be sorted out soon but we can’t use it as an excuse,” said Demetriou.

“We have to get on with it and start picking up points.”

The Shrimpers have been beaten in nine of their 11 League games this season and are currently second from bottom in the standings, just one place and two points below Wimbledon.