Billy Clarke ‘over the moon’ after making his Charlton return in the FA Cup

Billy Clarke was ‘over the moon’ after making his long-awaited return from a knee injury in Charlton’s Emirates FA Cup tie at Mansfield Town on Sunday.

The Irishman, who had spent the last 11 months on the sidelines, came off the bench for the final 21 minutes and Charlton grabbed their equaliser shortly after his introduction.

The Addicks now face a replay against The Stags next week and Clarke is eyeing more minutes.

“It’s been a long eleven months for me,” he beamed. “I’m over the moon to be fully fit and back involved. I couldn’t wait to be back on the pitch.

“It’s worked out alright for me [drawing] because I’ll get more minutes, which is what I need. I’ll get up to speed quicker. I’m just delighted to be fully fit and travelling with the lads again.

“I’ve been training for quite a bit now. I’ve played some U23 games but they’re nowhere near the speed of a first-team game. There’s an extra couple of games now that I’ll be looking to get involved in and every minute will help me to where I want to get to.”

Clarke has been out since falling awkwardly against Blackburn Rovers in December 2017. In the 11 months that followed, he endured some tough times.

He said: “I’d had the experience of doing it [the injury] previously and a lot of the stuff is just mind-numbing. Gym-based exercises that you can do easily but they just have to be done to strengthen all areas of the knee and get your knee working properly again.

“There were times where I was in the gym until half five in the evening; for everyone who knows footballers’ time schedules, that’s quite late. It’s not the norm. It was a lot of lonely time.

“Everyone involved has been fantastic with me. The physios, the sports scientists, all the medical team have been top-drawer. Then my family have been second-to-none.

“I’m grateful to everyone who has given me words of support and encouragement and a pat on the back when I did need it. It’s something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone . People would say ‘at least you’re not dead’ but when you’re working so hard to do something for your whole life and you can’t do it, it’s kind of second to that.”

Tickets for Charlton's Emirates FA Cup first-round replay against Mansfield Town on Tuesday, November 20th are on sale and can be purchased online by clicking here.

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