JAI Stanley believes he is a much better player than the one Worcester City shelled out a record fee for.

Former City boss John Barton chose to stump up £10,000 for Stanley's services in November 2003.

Before his big-money transfer, the attacking midfielder lit up non-league grounds with expert vision and creativity setting him apart from the rest.

But it's been a different story at St George's Lane as three heart-breaking knee injuries in successive seasons have curtailed Stanley's impact.

The Coventry-based playmaker, however, has not lost any of the qualities that tempted City to wield the chequebook. And after agreeing to a new City deal, Stanley is eager to make up for lost time.

"There's no question I'm a better player now," said the 27-year-old. "Psychologically and mentally, I'm far stronger since I've been here.

"I've still got the same ability and, coupled with a little bit more experience, I believe I'm better than when I joined.

"I've not played anywhere near the amount of games I should have. That makes me even more determined to do well at Worcester.

"I have to stop taking the game for granted. When I was 24 or 25, I just got on with playing. That was probably why I did so well and why the club was prepared to pay that sort of money."

There is no denying Stanley has been short on luck with the same knee injury plaguing his City career.

Before Christmas last year, he went under the knife at a clinic in Lancashire to repair cartilage to his right knee, the third such surgery in two years.

It left him on the sidelines for five months, missing City's run to the FA Cup second round.

Stanley, who only made nine league starts this season, admits lessons have been learnt from the latest episode and he does not expect more flare-ups.

He added: "My knee is a lot stronger and it is something I've got to maintain.

"I was out for five months. It's a long time and I missed out on big, big games. I wanted to be part of the FA Cup. Those kind of games against Huddersfield on television do not come around every year.

"But I've done a lot of things differently and, hopefully, it should not happen again.

"I've learned a lot from last season. I'm 27 and a bit wiser. You don't think about injuries when you are younger. You think it will be OK, but that's not the case.

"Looking back at previous injuries, I didn't approach my rehabilitation as well as this time. That's something you learn."