Mahamadou Diarra was delighted just to make it back on a Premier League pitch – but Saturday’s win over Aston Villa made his return in a Fulham shirt extra special.

The Malian midfielder has had a long road back from the injury problems that blighted his last season with Fulham, but his determination to play again impressed new manager Felix Magath after he had been left without a contract since last summer. The 32 year-old revived his old partnership with Steve Sidwell to good effect during Saturday’s vital win at Villa Park that has given Fulham renewed belief that they can avoid relegation from the top flight.

I didn’t know whether I’d make it back. I had a really big injury and it was not easy. But I stayed positive that I would play again and now I’m back and I’m so happy.

I can say thanks to God. It was a really long wait and really difficult for me so today, to see myself back on a Premier League pitch … I’m so pleased. I must also say thanks to Fulham for giving me the opportunity to be here and I must say thank you to my teammates today. It wasn’t easy but my teammates helped me. My body was tiring towards the end but my mentality and my teammates pulled me through.

His professionalism means that helping Fulham out of their perilous predicament remains the only thing on his mind. Diarra is convinced that the confidence gained after Hugo Rodallega’s late winner can help them climb out of the relegation zone.

My comeback was really great for me and for the team, but the most important thing was to get three points. We deserved the win. We controlled the game and we were still trying to play. We got the three points but we can play much better. When they equalised, we didn’t let out heads drop, we kept going and we got our reward.

The 3,000 away fans were great. They really want us to stay up so we have to do it for them as they are always here for us. We now have five finals to play and all the games are very important. We still believe. Why not?