Clarets striker Ashley Barnes says he “sees the light at the end of the tunnel” in his road back to fitness.
Barnes suffered a cruciate and medial knee ligament injury in Burnley’s final Premier League game at Aston Villa in May, having had the season of his life.
I see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just how fast I can get back – I want it sooner rather than laterAshley Barnes
The former Brighton man netted five goals for the Clarets in the top flight, but the crushing blow meant he essentially wrote this season off, as he focused on battling his way back to fitness.
Barnes was the fourth of five Clarets to suffer a cruciate problem in 18 months – Sam Vokes, Kevin Long, Dean Marney, Barnes and then Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Vokes is back in the first team, Long and Marney are closing in on a return to injury, while Barnes and Jutkiewicz are in the early stages of their recovery.
But Barnes is in good spirits, and he said: “It’s coming along really well, I’m doing good, it’s just when I’ll be back.
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just how fast I can get back – I want it sooner rather than later.
“I’ve written this season off in my head, and anything else is a bonus, but I should be back before then.
“If I have that in my head though, getting back would be a big bonus.”
Vokes is back in the side and scoring, while Long and Marney are also inspirational for Barnes: “They are flying. Every injury is different, and everyone’s bodies are different, and I had a similar injury to Vokesy, so I’ve got to look more at him than those two, but they’re all pretty much the same. The physios are clued up on it and hopefully there won’t be any problems.
“But Vokesy is back playing week in, week out now, and if you see him in training, the way he moves is good, and hopefully I can match that and be the same.
“It’s not a positive, but it gives your body, not a rest as such, your body has been through so much. I’ve had to put the stress back through now, the first couple of months are always the hardest, to get your head around just being in the gym doing little exercises, but now I’m doing more and more, I’m out on the bike and using the anti-gravitymachine (at Crow Wood), and I’ve been out on the pitch a couple of times, which is good. It’s flying along now.”
And he is determined to help play his part on and off the pitch as Burnley strive to win a place back in the Premier League.
Barnes enjoyed some memorable moments in the top flight – winning goals against Hull and Southampton, and an equaliser at Manchester City among them, and he said: “It’s more frustrating because I want to fight to get back in the Premier League with the lads, but unfortunately I can’t help on the pitch, I can just help verbally.
“That’s all I can do, it was a kick in the teeth, but you’ve got to get on with it.
“I felt I’d improved massively all round, from my strength to how I was playing, and it’s a massive kick in the teeth because you want to prove to everyone you’re good enough for the Premier League.
“I thought we did well and we’re just unlucky, we cost ourselves, shot ourselves in the foot, come the end.
“You can only go from strength to strength though, and out main aim is to get promoted straight away.
“I’m rooting for the lads week in, week out, and if the lads get promoted, we’re all in it together. I’m part of that, and hopefully can get promoted with them, if they’ve done the job. But hopefully I can come back before the end of the season and help them cross the line.”