It may have been a heavy defeat for AFC Bournemouth at Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon but a moment with around a dozen minutes to go warmed the hearts of everyone – even the home support.
Cherries winger David Brooks, who had been sidelined for 18 months following a stage two Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, came on for his first appearance in 534 days to a round of applause from the entire crowd at Villa Park.
The Cherries’ survival hopes were severely dented with defeat as Villa charged into the top half for the first time in months, but there were still positives to take from the game, with Brooks’ return the biggest of all.
Bournemouth’s head coach was over the moon to see his winger back in action, with a hint made for some more game time to come. “I’m delighted for David. He’s been on a really tough journey with his family and he’s worked his socks off for a while,” Gary O’Neil said post-match.
“To arrive where he is at the moment, we need to be sensible with his minutes but he’s got two weeks of work [during the internationals] - some time with the under 21s - and then hopefully more minutes after the break,” O’Neil continued.
Brooks established himself as one of the most promising young players in the Premier League a few years ago but his crushing diagnosis halted his development. Following extensive treatment and plenty of hard work, however, he is now back and raring to go.
Whether or not he will be able to start games this season awaits to be seen, but some minutes off the bench at Villa - regardless of the result - can only be seen as a positive. Both sides now have two weeks off before the Premier League returns at the start of April.