West Ham full-back Aaron Cresswell has admitted he struggled during his three-month injury lay-off but says the prospect of walking out at the London Stadium kept him motivated.
The 26-year-old suffered a knee-ligament injury in a pre-season friendly and has been forced to watch the Hammers’ struggles this season from the stands.
He is hoping to return on Saturday when West Ham visit Crystal Palace, and could make his first appearance at the club’s new home the following weekend against Sunderland.
Cresswell said he found the slow recovery process frustrating, particularly given it was the first major injury of his eight-year professional career.
He told West Ham’s website: “I was stuck in a knee brace for four to six weeks and it was hard to get the knee bending.
“I could only bend it so much and it was difficult for me just to get out of bed and walk down the stairs.
“There was some dark days during that time but I can now see some light at the end of the tunnel.
“Everyone told me to keep positive and that helped me get through it.
“Hopefully I will be able to get over this little setback and stay injury free for a long time.”
Cresswell played 50 minutes in a training ground match last Thursday, his first game back, and is now keen to experience the London Stadium for the first time as a player.
He said: “I played in the final game at the Boleyn Ground and was then looking forward to playing the first game at the new stadium, so to miss it was a big blow.
“I am really looking forward to walking out the tunnel in front of 60,000 fans and it is something you dream of.”