Striker Ashley Barnes described the feeling as “phenomenal” as he made his return to action in the stalemate against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The 27-year-old has suffered some huge misfortune over the last 18 months with a troublesome hamstring adding insult to the cruciate ligament knee injury sustained at the back end of the last Premier League campaign.
The former Brighton and Hove Albion forward returned from his initial spell on the sidelines to make eight appearances in Burnley’s final run to the Championship title.
But, as he readied himself for a second stint in the top flight, Barnes hobbled off in a pre-season friendly against Bradford City at Valley Parade.
After making his first outing of the campaign, replacing Andre Gray on the hour at the Theatre of Dreams, Barnes said: “It felt amazing to be back out there. It was phenomenal to step back out onto the pitch. It’s been a long time coming.
“I’ve seen some dark days but you’ve got to be prepared to see them and battle through them. I’ve stayed positive and I’ve got a great family around me.
“Last year I had my knee injury and then this year I did (the injury) at Bradford and unfortunately broke down a couple of times in training, but I’m back now and that’s what I’ve got to look forward too.”
The striker almost made the ideal impact at the weekend, drawing what appeared to be a foul from Matteo Darmian in the penalty area.
Barnes appealed for the spot kick, however referee Mark Clattenburg ignored the cries.
“It was a stonewall penalty,” he said. “He’s come straight through the back of me. I got the ball, 100%. I should’ve had a penalty.”
Barnes netted in spectacular fashion on a number of occasions when last seen in England’s top tier, picking out the top corner against Spurs at White Hart Lane and against Manchester City at the Etihad.
Now he’s determined to work hard again and add to the competition among the Clarets’ striker’s union.
“I definitely feel stronger,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of work in the gym with the physios.
“I’m 100 per cent fit now but I’ve still got to play some reserve team games.
“All I can do is work hard in training and it’s got me in the team this weekend.
“I want to add to the competition. We were down to one or two at one stage, for me and Dre to come back today is a little boost.”