After two ankle operations and eight months watching on from the stands, Bournemouth’s David Brooks was just getting back into the swing of training – before football was suspended for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a little bit disappointing,” he said in an exclusive interview ahead of Bournemouth’s game against Newcastle on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports (kick-off 6pm).
“I was just getting into training and hopefully playing, then it got put back and I ended up running again for nine or 10 weeks. Obviously that’s not an ideal situation for a footballer to be running around and not playing football, but I got the work done.
“I hadn’t been training for that long so I don’t think I had gotten used to it and had to go back, it was more about being excited to go back into training and when that stopped, it wasn’t the best feeling but thankfully, it wasn’t too long.”
The injury followed a breakout season for Brooks at Bournemouth. He made 30 Premier League appearances and scored seven goals, earning himself a nomination for PFA Young Player of the Year alongside Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Marcus Rashford.
Arriving at the Vitality Stadium from Sheffield United in July 2018 for a fee believed to be £11.5m was a big change for Brooks, but he soon settled into life on the south coast.
“Moving to Bournemouth was a tough challenge, moving so far away from home and I didn’t know anyone down here apart from Aaron Ramsdale, but he was in and out on loan and things like that. I had to embed quite quickly, try and hit the ground running and try and show what qualities I could bring to the team.
“But the team and staff were very welcoming with me, I got a few texts before I’d even stepped foot in the building and as soon as I got in, I made quite a few friends quite quickly so it wasn’t too hard and it was all uphill from there really.
“I didn’t really expect it [the PFA nomination] in my first season in the Premier League but it was a really nice touch. It was nice to go down to the awards ceremony with my family and it was a great moment and a very proud one for myself.”
Facing a relegation battle
Since the return of the Premier League, Brooks has played in both games for Bournemouth and is pleased to be back despite the results – two defeats against Crystal Palace and Wolves with no goals scored.
It has left the Cherries dangling in the bottom three on goal difference in an extremely tight relegation race, but Brooks and Bournemouth are up for the fight.
“It’s a good moment for myself to get back playing and hopefully I can help the team,” Brooks said. “It’s not been nice to be out for as long of a period as I did so I’m just thankful I’m back and hopefully it won’t happen again.
“It is a bit of a weird situation, we haven’t hit the ground running like we wanted to or anticipated it to so we’ve got to put those two games behind us.
“We’ve got a big game against Newcastle on Wednesday and I’m fully backing us to go and get a result. I played Newcastle twice in my first season and they were both tough games so I’m anticipating that it will be another tough game but we’ve got enough quality in our dressing room to go and get all three points.
“The feeling in the Bournemouth camp is extremely confident. When you look at the quality that we have within the team, we shouldn’t really be down there in the first place. As long as we play with a bit of confidence and reach our potential with what we can play like, I think we’ll be alright.
B’mouth vs Newcastle
July 1, 2020, 5:30pm
“I think you go through those spells when you’re not playing particularly great. The goals aren’t flowing and you’re conceding very poor goals and I think it is quite a hard thing to get out of that little run you’re in, because the confidence is low and it’s quite a vicious circle you can find yourself in.
“I think it’s probably the case where we haven’t really got out of that rut and put a few wins together… But I’m not really looking behind us, I’m looking at the next seven games and how we can get out of the situation that we’re in.”
An eye on Wales and Euro 2020
Of course, Euro 2020 should be in full swing by now, with Wales – who Brooks opted to play for over England – having qualified for a second successive tournament.
But it would have been a close call for Brooks to be included in Ryan Giggs’ squad had the competition not been rearranged for next summer and he is hoping an appearance at his first major championships is on the horizon.
“It was one of the things I was looking forward to,” he said. “It’s a massive tournament and it’s what every player would want to do on an international stage, go to a Euros and a World Cup.
“So when we did qualify, I was very much looking forward to it. Then the injury happened and the longer it went on, it was getting more touch and go on whether I’d be fit enough and playing regularly enough to get into the squad, so it was in the back of my mind to try and make that squad.
“I don’t think it’ll cross my mind too much [making next summer’s squad]. Obviously it is a nice thought when you think about it that you could potentially go to the Euros, but there is a lot of time and a lot of games to be played before then so those are my main focus at the minute.”
Brooks has marked his big international moments so far with both finalists from the 2018 World Cup. He made his Wales debut in November 2017 against France and scored his first goal in a 2-1 defeat to Croatia in June 2019.
“I think my debut against France was probably my biggest achievement in football to date. It was a massive occasion for me to make my international debut, it was against a massive team, the stadium was packed and a lot of my family made the journey over from Wales to France so it was nice to share it with them as well.
“I had a few chances before that [goal against Croatia] and hadn’t managed to put it in the back of the net so it was a nice feeling to finally get that goal. It was a bit disappointing though because we did end up losing the game.”
As already mentioned, former Manchester United and Wales midfielder Giggs is Brooks’ coach at international level, with Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey among his team-mates, giving the 22-year-old plenty of people to learn from.
“I think you continue to learn every time you go away with big players like them and even a coach like Ryan Giggs. There’s a lot of information you can absorb from them so I think every time you go away, you’re looking to learn and to try and show them what you’re about as well. It’s a good environment to be in.”
International targets play a big part in Brooks’ overall career goals, with the midfielder adding: “If you ask any player that, they want to play at the highest level possible. Internationally, there’s the Euros next summer, I’d like to do that, and qualify for the World Cup and see how far I can go.”
For now though, helping Bournemouth out of a relegation quagmire is top of Brooks’ to-do list.