Crystal Palace’s Connor Wickham has revealed the sense of “joy and relief” that came with scoring his first goal in 799 days after overcoming the “worst period of my life”.
The striker scored Palace’s opening goal in Sunday’s 2-0 FA Cup fourth-round victory over Tottenham, on his first start since November 2016.
That period represented the start of a traumatic time in which Wickham’s career was threatened by an anterior cruciate ligament injury and he suffered several setbacks in his attempts to return.
During that time Palace’s biggest problem had consistently come in the final third, where Christian Benteke had largely struggled, but with the 25-year-old again fit, he has the chance to establish himself for the first time under boss Roy Hodgson – having got injured when Alan Pardew remained their manager.
“It was bit of joy and relief,” said Wickham, whose lengthy absence meant he also missed the reigns of Sam Allardyce and Frank de Boer.
“It was quite an emotional goal as I had a lot of family here and they were probably right above the goal.
“It has been a very long, frustrating time but I can start to look forward now instead of backwards.
“It’s a very, very long wait but there’s nothing that can replace the feeling of scoring.
“It was very difficult, very, very difficult. It wasn’t really the knee that was draining, it was everything else around it; my little injuries that were four or five weeks, six weeks. It built up a long period of time.
“But it is a period I can look back on as I have come out the other end of it. It has been the worst period of my life in a footballing sense.
“I don’t think I could have done it without the support of my family, and my little boy (Jaxon) and my partner (Kayla). I could not have done it without them so I am eternally grateful for everything they have done for me through my injury.”
Their 2-0 defeat at Selhurst Park, following that on Thursday by Chelsea on penalties in the semi-finals of the League Cup, meant that Spurs were eliminated from a second competition in four days.
Tottenham will try to maintain a push for a top-four finish in the Premier League with winning the title looking unlikely as they sit nine points behind leaders Liverpool.
While they face Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in the knockout stages of the Champions League amid injuries to Dele Alli and Harry Kane and are at risk of again ending the season without a first trophy since 2008.
On Wednesday they host Watford in the top flight when a third-successive defeat in all competitions would further threaten their ambitions, and Erik Lamela said: “We have to win. We play at home, and I think we will do it.
“We care about every competition (including the FA Cup). We care about every game. We want to win every time we go on the pitch.
“Unfortunately we didn’t. But it’s another game on Wednesday and we need to be focused on that. The mood is not very good. But we need to move on.”