NATHAN CLARKE is already looking beyond today's play-off final to playing a full part with Town next season.
The 20-year-old defender was desperately disappointed to miss the run-in because of an ankle injury which needed surgery to put right.
He was delighted to be selected in manager Peter Jackson's 20-strong squad for the Millennium Stadium showpiece against Mansfield, however, and will use it as a springboard for 2004-05.
"I'll be having a short holiday with my girlfriend and then it will be back to the summer schedule of training which our physio, Lee Martin, has planned out for me," said Clarke.
"After the nightmare of missing out on so many big matches because of yet another long injury (he was previously out 18 months with knee trouble) it's been great to be involved in all the preparations for the final down in Cardiff.
"It has been another long trek for me, but coming back and training with the lads, especially with all that's gone on over the past week, has been a great lift for me.
"Everyone has been buzzing ahead of the final and to be back on the training ground with them - and feeling fit again - has been just the boost I needed."
Clarke last played against Rochdale on March 16 and, having missed out on Town's previous play-off campaign against Brentford in 2002 because of injury, he is frustrated to have missed out so far this time.
"It's one of those things you have to live with but I have missed being there for the final push, especially when we were in such a great position to make automatic promotion," he said.
"There have been a few nervous faces around as we've had all the film crews up recording our preparations, but for me it's been great just to be a part of it all again.
"It was last Tuesday when the gaffer called me in and told me I would be travelling with the squad and that was a nice touch.
"I just told him I'd be ready if he needed me."
Clarke has enjoyed seeing supporters in such good mood.
"I remember going as a fan to Wembley in 1995 and what a great day it was, so hopefully this will match that," he added.
"The Examiner even had a picture of me that day, which was fun, although no-one knew because I'd had my face painted!
"It was brilliant to see so many fans at the McAlpine to wave us off yesterday.
"All the lads got a buzz from it and it just shows how much it means to people for us to do well."