Rory McArdle is confident of winning his fitness fight to make it to Wembley with City.

The Northern Ireland international returned to training yesterday for the first time since damaging his ankle at Fleetwood 18 days ago.

And the defender, who had played more football this season than anyone in the country before the injury, believes he can stand up to the challenge of the Capital One Cup final on Sunday.

Phil Parkinson insists the club will continue to monitor him carefully before making any rash decisions – but McArdle is feeling increasingly positive about his chances.

He said: “I joined in for the first time with the lads and it was a great feeling. I had no reaction and the session went really well.

“I’d been doing a bit of running on Thursday last week, just in straight lines at first. Then I worked with the physios on Saturday and Sunday with a bit more twisting.

“Everything was built towards yesterday and being able to join in. It felt like a long time since I’d been training but the lads have been brilliant in helping me.

“They have really encouraged me, asking how things were going and so on and telling me ‘you’ll get there’.”

McArdle’s mood has improved dramatically since the scan that suggested he had torn a ligament. A second opinion then backed up his view that the problem was nowhere near as bad.

He said: “I was walking fine so in my mind I thought I’d got a chance. That proved to be the case and I feel great now. It would have been devastating if the injury had been as bad as the scan said.

“The days can seem long when the boys are out training and I am in the treatment room, especially as the sun has been back out recently. I now have the opportunity to put myself back in the picture.

“When I trained, the first thing James Hanson said was ‘I’ll stand well away from you then!’ It was funny but we got straight back into it.”

McArdle’s recovery could leave five players fighting for the two central defensive spots against Swansea. Andrew Davies and Michael Nelson have partnered each other in the last two league games but cup regular Carl McHugh and Curtis Good are also in the equation.

The team do not travel south until Friday morning and Parkinson will not be rushed into a verdict on whether McArdle could feature.

The City boss said: “We won’t make any wild predictions that he’s fit or not. We’ll keep assessing Rory day by day.

“He’s trained one day but we’re pleased with the way he’s going. He’s progressing really well and we’ll see.

“Everybody’s in good spirits. It’s a long week with the extra day and we’ve just got to make sure we go into the game as organised as possible and as fit and as fresh as we can.

“When we get on that coach, that’s it. I don’t want to hear any more about tickets, family ringing about travel arrangements or press requests.

“It’s important when we are at the hotel that we get that time to focus on what we really want to do.”