Fit-again Zakuani ready to fight for his Cobblers place

READY TO RETURN - Cobblers central defender Gaby Zakuani

READY TO RETURN - Cobblers central defender Gaby Zakuani

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Gaby Zakuani has declared himself fit and available for selection - but knows he will have to be patient before being handed a first chance to impress new Cobblers boss Justin Edinburgh.

Zakuani hasn’t played for the Cobblers since the 2-1 defeat to Bradford City at Sixfields on January 2, when Rob Page was still the manager.

I am ready for whenever, and my main focus is my fitness, and I am fit now, So it is about when I do get the opportunity to play, that I stamp my authority on things again

Cobblers defender Gaby Zakuani

The 30-year-old initially travelled to captain the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Africa Cup of Nations, but then suffered a hamstring strain in their opening game in mid-January, and has been out of action ever since.

Zakuani returned from international duty to a much-changed club, with Page sacked and Edinburgh the new man in charge.

He has been back in training with the Cobblers for two weeks now, and feels he has fully recovered from his injury, but isn’t expecting to walk straight back into a Town team that has won three of their past four matches.

“I have been doing a lot of rehab since I have come back, and it’s been going very well,” said the former Peterborough United man.

“As the first team were on a day off, I trained with youth team on Thursday just to see how it was, and I did a full session with them and did extra afterwards.

“There has been no reaction so far, so I am pretty pleased with the progress.”

Zander Diamond and Lewin Nyatanga are the Cobblers’ current central defensive partnership, and the pair are set to start Saturday’s Sky Bet League One clash at Southend United, but Zakuani has made it clear he is ready to play if required.

“I am ready for whenever, and my main focus is my fitness, and I am fit now,” he said.

“So it is about when I do get the opportunity to play, that I stamp my authority on things again.”

Zakuani now joins a four-man race to claim the two central defensive spots in the Cobblers first team, joining Rod McDonald in trying to oust Diamond and Nyatanga, and he welcomes the challenge.

“It is good that there is competition for places,” said Zakuani.

“It keeps everybody on their toes, and I am happy because that raises my levels of performance, and it will raise everybody else’s too, so that is good.”

Edinburgh has impressed Zakuani in his dealings with him so far, and he revealed that the Town boss was also in contact with him while he was away with DR Congo.

“I have spoken to the manager quite a lot, and we were exchanging emails when I was away and it has been a good start, relationship wise,” he said.

“I am getting to know him better, and I am seeing his stamp being put on training.

“I am getting to know him more and more each day, speaking to him each day, so I am quite comfortable with him already.”

The Cobblers travel to Roots Hall on Saturday fresh from back-to-back Sixfields victories over Chesterfield and Swindon Town, and Zakuani believes the players should expect to claim something this weekend.

“It is always tough playing against Southend, and they are going really well this season,” he said. “But we are picking up a bit of form and can go there with confidence.

“I think we have to fancy ourselves with how we have been playing, and if we can stay solid then you never know what might happen.

“We will do our homework and go there looking to pick up some points.”