David Brooks said it “means everything to get back out there” after Saturday’s match at Aston Villa saw the Bournemouth midfielder make a first appearance since cancer treatment.
The 25-year-old Wales international had last featured in a game in September 2021, shortly after which he was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin lymphoma.
Brooks revealed he was cancer-free last May and returned to Bournemouth’s matchday squad for the 1-0 win over Liverpool last weekend.
He then came on in the 79th minute at Villa Park – a moment that prompted applause from both sets of fans – in a contest the Cherries ended up losing 3-0.
Brooks told Bournemouth’s official website: “Obviously over the past 18 months it’s not been a great time.
“To get back on the pitch and try to help and feel involved was a nice feeling. The game didn’t really go to plan in terms of when I came on, what I wanted to do and help the team achieve, but yeah, it was a nice moment to get back out there.
“I’d like to say thank you to all the Villa fans that did that (applauded). They were doing it near enough as soon as I went to warm up in the first bit, so to do that, I’m pretty sure that my family in the crowd and everyone involved with me, it was a nice moment for them as well.
“It means everything to get back out there and be doing the things I like.
“It was a tough 18 months for my mum and dad to watch me go through that, my girlfriend Flora was basically a 24-hour nurse, getting me back to health.
“My girlfriend’s brother and dad were both in the stands and he’s going through exactly the same thing as me, and he’s not had the best of news over the weekend. It’s obviously a bit of a downer for him, and I just want to send my support and kind of show there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel when he gets there.”
Gary O’Neil’s Bournemouth slipped a place to 19th in the Premier League, a point adrift of safety, after the defeat.
Villa scored via an early Douglas Luiz finish, Jacob Ramsey’s 80th-minute strike and an Emiliano Buendia header with a minute of normal time to go as they registered a third win in four matches.
It was watched from the stands by owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, and boss Unai Emery, who has been in charge since November, said: “It’s very important. It’s the first time since I have been here that they both came.
“Nassef was as well at other matches we’ve played. I really appreciate a lot their visit, the players the same, and I think it’s good to be together here sometimes.
“(Saturday was) a very good day because they watched here our victory and enjoyed it, I think, with the team.”
Villa, who were only a point above the relegation zone in 16th when Emery officially started working with the team, are now 11th and just four points behind sixth-placed Liverpool.