Having been out for over a year with a serious knee injury, this weekend’s fixture against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley is one I’ve had my eye on for a long time.
Words can’t explain what it feels like to play football again after such a lengthy period on the sidelines. Simply talking about it makes me smile.
I’ve now made four appearances since I played my first game of the season at West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day. I’m grateful to be able to compete for some minutes because when you come back from a long-term injury, it can take a while to get back into the team.
I have to thank the manager, Sam Allardyce, because he has put a lot of confidence in me. I imagined, even three or four months ago, that I would have been eased back gradually, maybe from the bench and playing that role until I picked up the pace again.
I’ve enjoyed every game but with this injury you can’t expect too much, too soon. I’ve been taking it game by game to see where I’m at. I know that if I can get back to anywhere near my previous level, I’ll be able to create lots of problems for defences.
Hopefully that will be the case against Spurs. I grew up near Wembley and from my mum’s house you can see the stadium’s iconic arch.
It had always been a dream of mine to play there and I’ve been lucky enough to do that twice. I played there in the 2016 FA Cup semi-final for Crystal Palace against Watford – when I scored – and then a few weeks later against Manchester United in the final. I’ve had a win and a loss so hopefully this will be another victory.
The fans could also get their first glimpse of Cenk Tosun, who joined us from Besiktas last week. Cenk has settled in well and looks like a great player who gets into the positions where you want your strikers to be. I’ve been watching his clips to see how he gets his goals and I’ll be trying to link up with him when we are on the pitch together.
We are into the New Year now and, thankfully, we are starting to get some players back from injury. The team is growing in confidence too, especially from that performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup. Yes, we lost the game but I felt we played well and were unlucky to lose. If we take that kind of performance into the Premier League games, I think we can be a problem for every team we come up against in the second half of the season.
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