Billy Clarke has described his 45-minute runout for Charlton’s U23s against Ipswich Town as a ‘huge step forward’ in his recovery from injury.
The Irishman has missed the last 10 months with an ACL knee injury and Monday’s game saw him take to the field for the first time in 2018.
Clarke is set to feature again for Jason Euell’s squad when they face Coventry City on Friday and speaking exclusively to Valley Pass he revealed how delighted he was to be back out on the pitch.
“In the morning it was more a case of me wanting to get it over and done with,” he said. “I just wanted to come through unscathed.
“Now I’m the other side of the game, I’m over the moon. It’s been 10 long months and a lot of hard work from everyone around me. There is still work to be done, I’m nowhere near as good as I will be but I’m over the moon to be back.
“It took me a while to get going and fitness-wise I was a bit tired towards the end. It’s different to training, everyone knows that. The fitness you can get from training can give you a good base but there is nothing like match fitness.
“I’ve seen the stats of the distance I ran and I’m happy with it. It was more a case of getting though it and my knee feeling fine, though, and that’s the case, so I’m delighted with it.”
For many months, Clarke has worked hard with the club’s physios and sports scientists to get himself back fit and he Is thrilled to be in the final stages of his rehabilitation.
He said: “I’m not far off and to get back on the pitch was great. I’ve pretty much been a body builder for the last 10 months, just constantly in the gym, but now I’m back out to what you’d probably call a footballer’s natural environment. There’s no better feeling.
“Training gets you to a certain point, then you need games and that follows on with sharpening yourself up in training. It’s like a loop.
“You can train all you like but it is the games that really get your mind back on it. This is a stepping stone but a huge one for me.”