Jose Izquierdo is delighted to be back in action after scoring a late winner in Albion under-23's 3-2 win at West Ham United on Saturday.
The Colombian winger, who has been sidelined for 17 months following knee surgery, came on for the final half hour of the game and capped his comeback with a superb lob from 20 yards, having latched on to a long punt forward from goalkeeper Rob Sanchez.
“It’s great to be back,” said Izquierdo, who last appeared for the Seagulls in the 1-1 Premier League draw against Newcastle United in April 2019. “It’s been hard for me, being out of action for so long, so to be playing again, for 30 minutes and scoring a goal, is really good.
“I have to thank Rob for the assist, but I was happy with the goal. I took it well and it was good to see it hit the back of the net, but the most important thing for me was to be back playing again. I now need to keep going and hopefully my body and my knee will respond well to this game. I feel good though, and that’s really positive.”
Following an extended spell at home in Colombia following surgery and, of course, the coronavirus outbreak, Izquierdo has been back with Albion’s first-team squad for the past few weeks. While he is looking forward to a Premier League return, he is reluctant to put a time scale on when he’ll be part of the first-team set-up.
“I’m excited to come back and want to be playing with the team, but I realise it has to be small steps – that will be good for me, good for my body,” he admits. “I’ve been out for a long time so I don’t want to rush things. I feel good so it’s just a case of building things up and working hard. Maybe next time I will play more minutes until I can do the full 90.”
With his return to the training ground, Jose has sampled life under head coach Graham Potter for the first time and he has been impressed with what he has seen.
“It’s been weird coming back to training with the boys, having been away for so long, but it’s been really enjoyable. It’s like a new start with the return from injury and the new coach, and I’m looking forward to playing for him. The sessions have been really good but, like I said, it’s a case of taking it step by step.”