‘I’m a lot stronger and ready for the Championship’ - Dozzell sets sights on opening day

Aaron Drinan has joined Sutton United on loan. Picture PAGEPIX

Aaron Drinan has joined Sutton United on loan. Picture PAGEPIX

Andre Dozzell has his sights set firmly on the opening day of the Championship season as he steps up his recovery from last season’s knee injury.

Aaron Drinan has joined Sutton United on loan. Picture PAGEPIX

Aaron Drinan has joined Sutton United on loan. Picture PAGEPIX

The teenager entered last season with high hopes after playing a part in England’s U19 European Championship-winning side, but saw his campaign ended after just 50 minutes when he was stretchered off in the opening-day win over Birmingham.

After a gruelling year of rehab he is now back on the field and played half-an-hour of the Blues’ pre-season defeat at Braintree on Saturday, with the clash against Blackburn at Portman Road on August 4 firmly on his mind.

“I’ve been waiting for this for about 11 months now so to finally be out there playing football, doing what I love, is a great feeling,” Dozzell said.

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“It was physically tough because, given I’ve not had a game for a while, the tempo was a bit quick and I’m not back to 100 per cent sharpness yet. But obviously the more minutes I get, the sharper I will be.

“The injury was one of those things you can’t help and just have to get on with as a footballer. Most players will have an injury and hopefully that’s behind me now.

“Watching the boys last season made me just want to be out there but it’s just one of those things you can’t help.

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“I hope (I will be ready), yes. I was always aiming to play again last season but, given I’m so young you don’t want to rush yourself back.

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“If last season was written off I then wanted to be back for the first day of pre-season and just kick on from there really.”

Dozzell took advice from his father Jason, who made more than 400 appearances for the Blues before joining Tottenham in 1993, and is grateful for the support he has received from the Blues’ medical staff during his year on the sidelines.

“My dad told me to just stay positive and do your rehab without cutting any corners and that’s what I did,” Dozzell said.

“He helped me a lot and I can’t say a big enough thank you to the medical staff, either. I wanted to be outside running a month earlier than I was but they are the experts, they know what they’re doing and have been with me every step of the way.

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“I think I’m mentally stronger and that can only help me in the long run. Hopefully that’s behind me now and I can kick on.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym, most days, and hopefully I’m a lot stronger and ready for the Championship.”