AFTER the toughest year of his life, Clarets striker Danny Ings is looking forward to his biggest week.
Ings made his first start of the season on Saturday in the 1-1 draw with Watford at Turf Moor, having been champing at the bit since returning to full training in October.
He missed the start of the season after a knee surgery following an injury sustained at Rochdale in pre-season, having missed the first half of last season after an operation on his other knee soon after signing from Bournemouth.
He ended the campaign with three goals in nine starts, and looked set to play a pivotal role in the side at the start of this term, under Eddie Howe.
Now fully fit, he has caught the eye of new boss Sean Dyche, and he hopes he can do enough in training this week, on the back of his display against the Hornets, to get the nod again at Birmingham on Saturday.
He said: “There’s no better feeling than being back on the pitch. I enjoyed every second of it.
“I’ve had the toughest year of my life but I’m back now, I’m fully fit, touch wood, and I’m building on something.
“A lot of people after having two operations could bow down and fade away, but I’m not that type of person.
“Every day I’m the first one in and last one out of the training ground, I work extremely hard to get to where I am.
“I’m fully fit now but that’s not it for me, I’m going to work hard and get stronger every day.”
Ings has had to be patient for a starting berth, but suspensions for Chris McCann and Michael Duff opened the door for himself and Kevin Long - who made his full debut for the club on Saturday almost three years after joining the club.
McCann and Duff are available again at St Andrews, however, and Ings said: “There were a few players the staff could have chosen from but I was grateful that the manager gave me the chance.
“I’ve worked extremely hard to get back to being fully fit.
“It’s been a tough year for me with both my knees being operated on but I’m there to be selected now and it’s fantastic.
“It was good to be back in the team and hopefully I took that chance and I can stay there.
“Hopefully I’ll be selected as much as I can and do well for the team.”
Still only 20, Ings is glad to be surrounded by people who have helped him through the tough times: “My family have been fantastic, as well as my girlfriend, keeping me motivated.
“It’s been frustrating being fit and not being in the team.
“But I couldn’t ask for a better set of team-mates, they are pushing me through and I’m grateful that I’ve got them.”
After being used in a wider role since returning to fitness, he was played off Charlie Austin in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Saturday - the role Howe had ear-marked for him, and he admitted: “I love playing there. To be fair that’s probably my strongest position, trying to play off Charlie and get on the ball and work hard off the ball.”
The only disappointment on Saturday was the result, with Ings feeling Burnley deserved all three points: “I thought we were hard done by, I thought we were going to push for the win, but I think it was one of those days that no matter how long the game went on it just wasn’t going to happen.
“There are a lot of positives that we can take from today and take it on to next week to Birmingham.”