After 11 weeks on the sidelines, Ross Barkley was finally back out on the pitch at Stamford Bridge this weekend and back among the goals as he notched Chelsea’s second in a comfortable 2-0 FA Cup win against Nottingham Forest.
The England midfielder turned in from close range to double our advantage just after the half-hour mark, pouncing on a spilled strike from Callum Hudson-Odoi to record his first club goal since September. In the second half, he was only denied a second by an impressive flying save from the Forest keeper to tip his header on to the post.
Afterwards, Barkley reflected on his return to the team after a lengthy period out injured, his hopes of impressing Frank Lampard and the pain behind his long-standing foot injury.
‘It felt great just to be back out on the pitch,’ the 26-year-old said. ‘I haven’t played for a while because I had a setback after I injured my foot.
‘I was in pain until only a couple of weeks ago but I put in a lot of hard work and I was grateful to get a start today, to get a goal and hopefully I can kick on from here and get back in the side.
‘It’s just about continuing to work hard in training and with a goal today, maybe it puts that thought back in the manager’s mind.’
After a positive start to the season for both club and country, the injury came at a bad time for Barkley and he provided an insight into just how difficult the pain has been to shake off over the past three months.
‘It’s tough to sit on the side watching games,’ he continued. ‘You want to be on the pitch but I had fine chips on two parts of bone in my foot so it was really painful.
‘I was trying my hardest to pass the ball in training with my right foot but it was that painful that I had to train with my left foot and some days I had to come out of training completely.
‘I couldn’t really kick the ball with my right foot so I just had to bide my time and keep working hard. For the last two or three weeks, I’ve been pain-free and I feel good. I’ve been putting in the extra yards after training, doing double sessions fitness-wise to just get on top of it and now I’m ready to get back in the side.’
Physical struggles can often led to psychological challenges and Barkley admits the tough times increase the pressure on performing well once opportunities arise once again. He took his chance against our Championship opponents, scoring with one of his game-high five attempts on goal.
‘I always stay positive in my mind because everyone has setbacks,’ he said. ‘No footballer likes being in the stands watching games, you want to be part of it and that means you’re frustrated but you have to take every chance you get like today.
‘We won the game, kept a clean sheet and I got a goal so hopefully that helps me get back in the side.’
Barkley was also the subject of headlines during his injury absence related to off-field incidents and he admitted he had learned lessons about how better to spend his time away from football.
‘Nowadays you just have to be careful because everyone is wanting to catch you out,’ he explained. ‘Sometimes you’ve got to let your hair down but you can’t forget about your job, which was unfortunate for me to get caught in that position.
‘I’m just keeping my head down now and it won't happen again. It’s taught me you have to be aware of your surroundings.’