Aneke is still a long way off a full return from injury

He may have made his MK Dons debut in the week but Chuks Aneke is still a long way from returning to full fitness.

Thursday, 24th November 2016, 3:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 10:30 am
Chuks Aneke made his Dons debut on Tuesday night

The 23-year-old was given a 10-minute run out against Chesterfield as Dons chased the game having spent the first part of the season in the treatment room as he overcame a cruciate knee injury.

The first appearance, said caretaker Richie Barker, was reward for his hard work in returning to fitness and in training since signing for the club in the summer.

But Barker was quick to take pressure off Aneke, insisting he's still a long way from being able to start.

Aneke signed for Dons in the summer. Pic: MK Dons

"We need to lower our expectations on him at the moment," Barker said. "He can only really come on for 10 minutes or so.

"He has been out for a year, so we need to take the pressure off him. He has a long, long way to go. We'd like him to be as fit as possible as quick as possible, but we're well aware he hasn't played for so long.

"It's not just building him up to it, but how he can deal afterwards too. It takes preparation and recovery. I did it as a different option and to give him a boost. He's been excellent in training, but he's not the answer at the moment and I don't want that pressure put on him."

While deployed as a target man on Tuesday, Barker says Aneke, who stands at 6ft 3in, isn't just a big man to play long balls to.

Aneke was used as a target man against Chesterfield

"He's an option," said Barker. "He gives us something different, he's a big physical presence, but he's so much more than that. He's technically an excellent player, but you only have to stand next to him to see the specimen he is."

Having spent five days short of a year on the sidelines, it isn't just the knee that will cause Aneke problems as he gets back to match fitness.

Barker added: "There are other things you have to take into account. He's putting his body through things it hasn't been through for a long time. That was a big moment for him - even the smile on his face going out for the warm-up.

"There will have been nerves too, not just wanting to do well. The first time you put your foot on that pitch pitch with a crowd, you just don't know what could happen, whether your knee is going to handle the first tackle.

Aneke signed for Dons in the summer. Pic: MK Dons

"There are physical issues but also psychological ones too. Injuries like the one Luke Shaw suffered - you saw the pictures in the media, and you think how strong he was to come back from that. But you couldn't see Chuks' injury, but it doesn't mean it's not as serious.

"You do fear that first tackle or the first time you run into the channels, so there's a confidence boost to be had there too."

Aneke was used as a target man against Chesterfield