Struggling Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez will have been greatly cheered by the news that midfielder Jimmy Bullard has played his first game for 15 months.
Bullard suffered a serious knee injury in a Premier League game at Newcastle last September but his lengthy rehabilitation took a crucial step forward on Tuesday in a reserve outing against Reading.
The popular midfielder, who joined the club from Wigan for £2.5 million in 2006, even scored on his return and admits he has been revitalised by his re-acquaintance with day-to-day football.
“I’m with the boys all the time now – I like the atmosphere of it all,” said Bullard.
“I am hyper, especially around the boys. A lot of the time has been spent in the gym on my own and when you finally come out and play football, doing what you love in the fresh air with a ball at your feet – the first couple of weeks I was top of the world.
“Even doing the warm up with the boys was fantastic for me. Actually now in training I’m not thinking about my leg which is the way I wanted it to be.
“The last two weeks have been full contact and training as we do. I’m back to where I was without the games and obviously I need my match fitness.
“I’m not thinking about my knee if I want a shot, I’ll just unleash one – it’s been awesome.”
Fulham physio Jason Palmer revealed the club were pleased with Bullard’s return.
“Jimmy has reached the final stages of his rehabilitation and has begun his reintroduction to competitive football,” said Palmer.
“We planned for Jimmy to play between 45 and 60 minutes on Tuesday afternoon for the development squad and he was subbed after an hour as planned.
“The medical staff at Fulham were very pleased with Jimmy’s performance on Tuesday and will monitor him over the next few days as he continues his training programme.
“As soon as Jimmy, the manager, the strength and conditioning team and the medical department feel he is ready for first team football he will be made available for selection.”