Ben Pope spoke of his delight after putting an eight-month injury nightmare behind him on Saturday.
Pope, 19, came on as a 69th minute substitute in Worthing Football Club’s 2-0 Ryman League Premier Division defeat at Leiston.
The striker had been out since July after dislocating and fracturing an ankle during a pre-season friendly with Watford’s under-21 side.
Pope admitted watching from the sidelines has been a difficult process but he’s now delighted to be back in contention.
He said: “It’s been a long road but I’m just so relieved to be back playing for Worthing now.
“It took me around five months just to get back walking normally after my injury, it was a really difficult, long period of time out.
“Football has been a massive part of my life growing up, so not to be able to play on a Saturday for a sustained period of time was really tough.
“I’m just relieved to be back playing for this club and hopefully I’ll be able to feature from now until the end of the season.”
After sustaining the injury, many feared Pope would be out of action for the whole of this season.
The 19-year-old also felt he would struggle to return this season but feels a solid month of training has seen him get back playing sooner than expected.
He added: “These injuries you have to be careful with and I thought I’d be out for the season.
“Fortunately, I’ve managed to get a solid month of training under my belt and now I’m back involved.
“With such a serious injury, I’m aware I can’t rush it and it’s important to manage it correctly.”
With six games still to go this season, Pope is unaware of how many more times he will feature.
The forward just hopes to get as many minutes for Worthing between now and the end of this season, before focusing on the next campaign.
He said: “I’ll be chatting with Gary Elphick and Jon Meeney (Worthing joint managers) to let them know how I’m feeling after each session and game.
“As I said earlier, these type of injuries are not ones you want to force or push, so I’ll be making sure I don’t over push anything.”
Pope returns to a Worthing team currently struggling for form. Saturday’s defeat at Leiston was an eighth in nine Ryman League Premier Division matches.
Worthing are just six points clear of fourth-from-bottom Kingstonian and the final relegation spot but Pope feels his side have more than enough to ensure their Premier Division status.
He said: “We’ve got three home games left this season and there is no reason why we can’t win all of those.
“It’s a great, talented squad we’ve got here and I’m sure we’ll remain in this division.”
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