Aneke is back, itching and ready to do some damage
He has suffered more dark times and more frustration over the last six months, but Chuks Aneke is determined to make an impact this season.
The 24-year-old hasn’t just seen the light at the end of yet another injury tunnel recently, but is now basking in it after two first team appearances in four days.
His six minute cameo at Bury on Saturday was just a warm-up - albeit an ominous one for League 1 defenders - while his first start on Tuesday night in the Checkatrade Trophy dispelled any psychological pressures he may have harboured.
Now, it’s about staying fit, healthy and in his words: doing some damage.
“I was itching to get out there after so long out with my injury,” he said.
“I came on, I had a few chances too, but it was just a good feeling to be out there. I’ve done a lot of work in the gym and with the physios, so it was good.
“It’s hard to say where my fitness is right now because this wasn’t a league game and the intensity wasn’t the same, but it has put me in good stead and I think I can come on and do some damage!”
Without question, he was the most ominous player on the pitch during his appearance against Stevenage on Tuesday.
A clear target for the Dons attacks, he was powerful and tricky with the ball at his feet, but the only thing missing was his finishing touch.
But given his injury history, it would be easy for Aneke to feel tentative about getting into the rough-and-tumble of League 1 football again.
Actually: “No! I’m a big lad, I was taking big hits out there! I’m ready.
“I just want to be fit and on the pitch and be there for a long period of time. If I stay fit, I’ll produce good moments, goals and assists, but I just want to be out there and not in the treatment room.”
It’s a place he is all too familiar with. Having made just 18 appearances last season after a long-standing knee injury, his hamstring tear in Bradford at the end of February was much worse than initially thought, ruling him out for six long months.
For Aneke, while he knew it wasn’t a flare up of his former ailments, it was yet another source of anger and frustration after beginning to find his way in the Dons first team.
He said: “I felt it straight my hamstring straight away, so I knew it wasn’t a reoccurrence of the injury again I want to put them all behind me now.
“Of course, it was a bitter time. I’d built myself up to be playing and influencing games.
“It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I’ve come through it again, I’m here and I can’t really complain. “
Sitting on the sidelines and watching his team-mates, while as far from ideal as he can imagine, has become something Aneke is used to.
Watching them settle into 12th last season, Aneke has seen a difficult start to the current campaign begin to turn a corner in September.
And with his return to regular action edging ever-closer, he now believes he can the difference maker.
He said: “We’ve got good quality and good players in good areas, so it wasn’t really frustrating to watch.
“I can see the team gelling and clicking. I’m not frustrated, I’m just happy to be in the fold and I’ll push myself to get some goals and get back into the team.
“I’ve got my head down, and I’ve got the whole season ahead of me.”