Dale Stephens was delighted to make his return to action from a long-term ankle injury in Brighton & Hove Albion under-21s' victory over Middlesbrough yesterday, but says he won't rush his comeback.
Stephens played the first half hour of Albion's 3-0 win at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, as planned, and is now eager to impress the new Albion manager, Chris Hughton.
He said, "It's great to be back on the pitch and to get 30 minutes as well. That was always the plan before the game so I was happy to get that under my belt and get through it.
"It's been nine months since I last played so it's been difficult time for me. I got up to speed a couple of times and been back training to a certain extent, but it's never been quite right and hopefully now I can make my comeback on time and on track.
"Things have obviously changed from last season, but things have come together with the new manager here and I just want to show him what I can do and get fit as soon as possible and play for the first team.
"I've spoken to him a few times about what's happening and the plan going forward, but he's put no pressure on me at all. He knows I've been out for a long time and it's about getting it right and not making any backward steps before getting back into the first team."
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The 25-year-old stressed how important it is to be thorough in his comeback to avoid any more setbacks, but expects to be involved in the next under-21 match against Cambridge United on Thursday.
"We've got another game this Thursday, so it's convenient that I've got two games in a week and that I can spread the minutes out.
"You don't know what's around the corner with long-term injuries, but I'd like to think I'm over the worst of it. It's about coming in every day and trying to get as fit as possible and play as many minutes as I can to build up to my return.
"It's important to get everything right; I don't want to go back into the first team and then have a couple more weeks or even months out. It's important that we get the work done properly and hopefully when I get back to the first team I'm there to stay."