David Brooks says the sunshine of the Persian Gulf and the warm embrace of his family kept him going through the dark days of the past 18 months.
The Wales forward – who scored the only goal of the game in the victory over the Republic of Ireland on Sunday – is coming back to his eye-catching best after missing most of last season due to an ankle injury.
So long as his fitness is confirmed, he looks a certain starter when Wales host Finland on Wednesday, where a point will be enough to finish on top of their National League group.
Brooks, 23, was unable to prevent his club Bournemouth from sliding out of the Premier League and he admits that after two operations and other knock-on effects, the past year-and-a-half has been the most testing spell of his career.
But Brooks says he kept his spirits up, and his objectives in focus, thanks to the support of his family and a trip to Qatar where the sunshine was part of the healing.
“There wasn’t just one person, but obviously talking to my family helped,” says Brooks, who is still rumoured to be a transfer target for Manchester United, despite a reported valuation of £50m held by Bournemouth.
🎥 | 🏴 1-0 🇮🇪
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) November 15, 2020
“Injuries in football aren’t a nice thing but there were quite a lot of injuries at Bournemouth at the time so I wasn’t alone in the physio room.
“It’s not good for the team but on a personal level I was never on my own.
“I went out to Qatar for a few weeks that added up to a few months and a lot of people helped me get back to where I am now, but the main focus for me was to get back fit, to get back into the Bournemouth side, and then the Wales side.
“I’ve just been looking forward to that and that’s been keeping me going.
“That’s always a worry when you get injured, especially after you’ve been out for 12 months. I was working really hard and then the lockdown hit, I had a few games but unfortunately we got relegated, and this season has been a bit stop start with little niggles.
“I’m just delighted to get 90 minutes last week and 82 minutes here (against Ireland) and it’s great that I’ve started to get back on the scoresheet, so I’m just looking forward and trying to stay fit.”
Brooks’ long term objective is to return to the Premier League and also be part of the starting team at the delayed final of Euro 2020 next summer.
FT l 🏴 1-0 🇮🇪
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) November 15, 2020
His ability to glide past players, his workrate and his finishing prowess made him one of the key elements of the Wales team that came through qualification and he is eager to be there when the tournament finals take place.
“Everyone was looking forward to the Euros, obviously it didn’t happen this year but we’re all looking forward to it next year and the fans will hopefully be able to cheer us on.
“This is an exciting time for me, last year I was out for 12 months and then on a personal note I couldn’t affect the team when I did come back to try and get them out of the relegation zone. “Obviously we couldn’t manage that which was tough on the lads. The start of this season has shown we deserve to be in the Premier League, but we didn’t do well enough last year.
“We’re all pulling in the same direction to get back into the Premier League and it’s started well so the main focus is to help Bournemouth get back into the Premier League and then to go away and have a good campaign with Wales at the Euros.
David Brooks. 👀
Definitely one of Bournemouth’s best players and no offense to Lingard and Pereira but he’s an upgrade on both of them.
— UTFR 🇾🇪 (@ManUtd_HQ) August 19, 2020
“You just have to look at the quality in our dressing room, we don’t go into any game thinking anything else other than getting three points.
“We’ll attack Wednesday in the same way we did against Ireland, knowing we are probably the better team and we should win that game.”