David Brooks does not want to be picked on sentiment on his return to the Wales stage.
Brooks is back in the Wales squad for Friday’s Euro 2024 qualifier at home to Armenia – the first time he has featured for the Dragons since October 2021 when he was diagnosed with stage-two Hodgkin lymphoma while on international duty.
The 25-year-old winger announced he was cancer-free in May last year and returned to club action for Bournemouth in March, starting the Cherries’ final two Premier League games.
🏴 “The aim was to always get back in a Wales shirt.”
⏱️ “I don’t want sympathy minutes.”
❤️ “To anyone who’s been affected by any sort of cancer, I think it provides hope.”
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) June 14, 2023
Brooks signed a new four-year Bournemouth deal last August and says he must be chosen for Wales on merit.
“I was out of contract this year before I signed my new one,” Brooks said.
“Even before talks had kicked in I wanted to make it clear I wasn’t there for sympathy.
“I don’t want to be there if I’m not going to play or wasn’t in the plans.
“Once they saw me training and how I was determined to get back to, I did earn what I was given.
“It’s the same with Wales. I don’t just want to be called up to be a spare part. I’m working hard to get back in the Bournemouth XI and be starting for Wales as well.”
“I’ve missed just putting on a football shirt… it will be a very proud moment for me when I, hopefully, can get on and do that”
David Brooks yn dychwelyd i garfan Cymru 🏴
Derbyniodd Brooks ddiagnosis o Hodgkin Lymphoma Cam II ym mis Hydref 2021. pic.twitter.com/GrFSXwxhxj
— Sgorio ⚽️ (@sgorio) June 14, 2023
Brooks underwent chemotherapy treatment following his cancer diagnosis, the draining effects of which he has said left him with night sweats, weight loss and struggling to climb the stairs.
Now he is close to peak playing condition – “I probably need to change a bit of the fat to muscle” – and says that returning to the Wales camp where he was diagnosed was a “very nice feeling”.
Brooks said: “The first step after the treatment was to get back into the Bournemouth dressing room and be part of that.
“As soon as that was completed, to get back in the Wales set up was the aim. The lads have welcomed me with open arms.”
On meeting up with Wales’ chief medical officer, Jonathan Houghton, who detected that Brooks’ had cancer symptoms, Brooks said: “I do owe him a lot, he’s obviously done a lot for us. It’s always nice to see him.
“Whenever my mum and dad see him they burst out crying and give him a big hug. I can’t thank him enough.
“Getting that awful news drops and crushes your world, at that moment you hope it will get better and go back to normal at some point.”
🗣️ “It’s like I never left, to be honest!”
Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks reflects on his return to the Wales squad, nearly two years on from being diagnosed with stage-two Hodgkin lymphoma 🏴 pic.twitter.com/HvQKnY19bq
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 14, 2023
Brooks won the last of his 21 Wales caps against Denmark at the delayed 2020 European Championship in June 2021.
His perspective on life might have changed in that time, with Brooks saying “he did not have a single care about football” when he was diagnosed “as I just wanted still be on Earth”.
But Brooks said: “I just love playing football and so as soon as I got the diagnosis, that was snatched away in the blink of an eye.
“But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t end up playing football. Football is not life or death, the main thing is being happy and healthy.
“My ambitions haven’t changed. I still want to try and get to the very top.
“The hunger and drive is the same for all the lads. We all have the same goal of reaching the Euros, the World Cup – that’s what everyone wants to play in.
“There’s a lot of new faces, people I’ve not met prior to this camp, and a lot of new staff.
“But the brief time I’ve worked with them over the past week, we’re all pushing in the same direction and trying to achieve the same goal.”
Read more about David Brooks’ battle with cancer.