BRETT Emerton insists he would not swap places with any of Blackburn Rovers’ relegation rivals as he bids to play his own role in the battle to beat the drop.

The Australian midfielder returns to Lancashire next week, as he continues his recovery from a knee operation, and is confident his Rovers’ team-mates have exactly what it takes to save their Premier League status.

Emerton has spent the last six weeks back in Australia, after undergoing surgery on the cruciate ligament he injured in the goalless draw at Middlesbrough at the end of January.

He returns with Rovers still embroiled in a relegation fight, just one place and two points above the safety zone, but insists he fully expects to make his playing comeback in the Premier League.

He said: “It is one of the most frustrating feelings I have ever had, especially knowing what a hard time the lads are having and knowing I can’t help them.

“I am coming back to England soon though and I will do everything and anything I can to help. I think at a time like this a club needs everyone together, injured or not injured.

“We all know the position Blackburn are in but results have improved and there are so many teams who are in that fight to stay up as well.

“What I would say is I know the quality this squad has, I know the experience and I know the spirit there is. I wouldn’t swap with anyone of the other teams down there.”

Emerton will have to settle for a watching brief for the rest of this season as his long road to recovery continues to gather pace.

But, after getting on an exercise bike just a day after surgery, Emerton started jogging earlier this week and believes the signs are good to be back in action in time for next season.

He said: “It is going as well as could be expected. I have been working hard on my rehabilitation with the physio and we are still hopeful I will be back for the start of next season.

“All the experts are happy with the progress I have been making and once I get back to Blackburn next week, I will be there working hard to get myself ready for pre-season.

“The last couple of months have been very difficult. Watching the boys from afar has been hard to get my head round but it is something I have had to deal with.

“I think I have dealt with it all quite well and all I can do is work as hard as I can to give myself the best chance of being ready for next season.

“I will do anything I can to help the boys this season as well of course.”

Meanwhile fellow Australian Vince Grella is winning his fitness battle ahead of Saturday’s crucial visit of Tottenham Hostpur.

The tough tackling midfielder has not featured for Rovers since injuring his in the 0-0 draw at home to Everton last month since aggravating a groin injury but could come back into contention.

Striker Roque Santa Cruz is touch and go to have recovered from his knee problem in time though as boss Sam Allardyce keep his fingers crossed on the fitness front ahead of tonight’s latest round of internationals.