A year of frustration is nearly over for Chuks Aneke
An innocuous twist in his knee during a training session has led to one of the most unpredictable years in the life of Chuks Aneke.
Sunday, November 27 marked the 12 month anniversary since his last start - a 3-2 home defeat for Belgian Waregem against St Liege.
That twist turned out to be a lot more serious than anyone expected, ruling him out for month after month, not able to put a date on his return.
Having spent a year in the treatment room, Aneke hopes his year watching, rather than playing football is coming to an end.
“It was difficult to sit on the sidelines and watch others play,” he admitted. “I’ve been a footballer my whole life, so it has been a really hard year, sitting and watching. I feel like I’ve grown through it, but now I want to get back up to fitness and stay injury free.
“No-one ever told me it would be a year. A lot of the time, we’d say it was a month, or another month, and we’d just keep pushing it back. I never knew how long it would be, so we never put a date on it.
“There was a lot of confusion because it was down to when my knee was ready to play. It made it more frustrating.
“It’s got to the stage where my knee has understood it doesn’t have that cartilage in any more. It’s over the operations, and now it feels alright.
“So I’m just working on getting back to full fitness.
“As it worked out, it was 12 months. But it could have been so much longer, and I could still be on the table now.”
It’s not just his knee that has to get used to new surroundings. The man himself has swapped Belgium’s top flight for England’s third tier as a move to Dons - injury and all - materialised in the summer.
But unable to play, unable to even train with a ball at his feet until last month had made Aneke something of a forgotten man.
Only spotted floating in and out of Stadium MK for another lengthy rehab session, Aneke was a surprise inclusion in the match-day squad to face Chesterfield last week - a reward for his efforts in training, according to Richie Barker. And his debut?
“It was fantastic,” Aneke grinned. “I was on the sidelines watching the play unfold and I thought we were going to win it.
“I was disappointed by the result of course, but I thought I could come on and maybe try and get a goal.
“But it was good to come on, and again at Coventry. I’m just trying to get as many minutes in as I can.”
The idea of starting though remains a long way off for the 23-year-old. On Tuesday, he laced his boots for the first time in a year as a starter - albeit in a behind-closed-doors match with Luton’s U21s - but as a starter nonetheless.He managed a controlled 65 minutes before being withdrawn, kept on ice and treated with kid gloves as his body remembers the rigours of football again.
But despite sitting out for a year, Aneke isn’t going easy on himself, and is demanding results from himself.
He said: “I’m hard on myself but I’m realistic so I know there’s a lot of hard work to put in before I can make a huge impact. But I back myself to come on in any game and make a difference. We’ll see what happens - I’m available now.
“I’m an attacker - I make assists and I score goals. If I come off the and I haven’t done that, I’m disappointed, because I’d ask why else was I on the pitch?”