Bray "itching" to return to action
17th November 2015
Swansea City's Alex Bray admits he is "itching" to get back playing football following a 14-month spell on the sidelines through injury.
The 20-year-old winger suffered ruptured anterior knee ligament damage ten minutes into his Football League debut while on loan at League Two side Plymouth back in September 2014.
A recurrence of the same injury in March this year following initial surgery had left Bray working with the club's medical staff for an entire season.
But following a tough rehabilitation programme the youngster is now just weeks away from returning to full training with his team-mates and he says a return to football can't come soon enough.
"It has been a hard year," said Bray. "To be honest the last 14 months have been very frustrating for me, you see other players doing well and carving out successful careers and you can't do that.
"My love for the game has meant I have had to stay away from football. Before I was injured I would go to every home game but since what happened I kept myself away from football to focus on the recovery.
"It would have been too frustrating for me to keep watching the games if I unable to play or do anything to help. Sometimes you have to do your own thing, get stronger and think about yourself."
After a positive 2013/14 season with the Under-21 squad, Bray's fledgling career was going from strength to strength.
At 19, the Wiltshire-born winger put pen-to-paper on his first professional contract for the club before he was included in the first-team squad's two-week tour of America last summer.
"That seems like a lifetime away now," he said. "I got the loan move to Plymouth and thought that was the start of some good things to come.
"But ten minutes into my first game it all fell apart, I heard my knee go and it went downhill from there. The first couple of months of recovery were probably the hardest; you can't live the normal active life you are used to because you are on crutches.
"Then you have to learn how to walk again which is harder than it sounds. You progress throughout the months and get back in the gym to work on your upper body and core strength.
"Then it is about getting back on the pitch, learning to run again, getting your fitness back and making sure you are 100 per cent right to play competitively."
Despite a frustrating period out of the game, Bray insists he is not bitter about the affect his injury has had on his career but admits it has changed his outlook on life.
"Before last September I used to take things in football for granted," he said. "To be fair I think most players do when they are not injured, but once you go through an injury like this you change the way you look at things.
"I always think there is a positive out of anything - even though this injury has been a massive negative on my life and career I have never doubted that I can come back stronger.
Now in the final stages of his recovery, Bray looks set to return to training with the Under-21 squad in the next few weeks.
"I would like to pick up where I left off 14 months ago," he says with a smile. "I'm itching to get back on that pitch and in my spare time it is all I think about. I really want to make 2016 my year.
"To only be a few weeks from walking and playing on that pitch with my team after a year out is exciting for me.
"Even to score that first goal in training when I do return will mean something and fulfil a massive target.
"My first goal will be to get 90 minutes under my belt with the Under-21s and from there I would aim to push on to get myself in contention for the first team, even if it is just training with them.
"I would also relish the chance to get back out on loan to continue my development."
Despite his playing time at Plymouth only being a brief one, the winger looks back at his time at Home Park with fond memories - with the Devon club sending Bray a signed shirt following his setback
"Even though I only spent a week there before I had my injury I enjoyed my time at Plymouth," said Bray.
"The shirt they gave me is in my Dad's house and even after everything that happened to me that day it represents my first Football League appearance so it reminds me of a proud moment.
"But my knee feels great at the minute and I know I can return a better player.
"I feel like I am in my physical peak and when I get back on the pitch people will see how much I have developed and grown into a man."