Fulham keeper Antti Niemi to return to first team football after a serious neck injury.

“I have never been nervous on a football pitch but I was nervous,” he said after making his comeback against Aston Villa.

The 34-year-old Finn keeper had broken a bone in his neck after falling awkwardly in the New Year London derby against Watford.

I landed on my neck and felt the pain on the right-hand side. I was a bit scared because the right side felt numb. It was nowhere near the spinal column, though, it was near the joint. There was a little break which took about three or four weeks to heal. But it has healed and is fine now.”

“It could have been a lot worse and I consider myself lucky. I wouldn’t talk about myself in the same sentence as Petr because his injury was a lot worse. I think any goalkeeper who has a serious injury but manages to come back and play at the top of his game again is amazing.”

“I don’t think it will affect my courage in the long term. It wasn’t the first time I have landed awkwardly but it was just bad luck.

Chris Coleman, Fulham’s manager, admitted: “We’ve missed him – at times we’ve needed three goals to ensure getting a point and you could see why in the last minute.”