FRAIZER Campbell insists he was always confident of making an impact this season after sparing Sunderland’s blushes with a fairytale return in the Wear-Tees derby.
Campbell ended a torturous 18 months on the sidelines with the leveller in yesterday’s 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough after Martin O’Neill introduced the fit-again striker as a half-time substitute.
The 24-year-old underwent a second operation on knee ligament damage last April and was expected to be out of action for a full calendar year with the career threatening injury.
But Campbell overcame the mental barrier of such a serious relapse to return ahead of schedule and earn Sunderland a replay at the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday week, with the winners facing a home draw with Arsenal in the fifth round.
Campbell told the Echo: “It’s quite high in my career highlights after being out for such a long time.
“Sometimes you don’t know when the end of the road is going to come. But hopefully now I’m on the path to getting fully fit.
“When you first do it, you wake up from the operation and mentally it’s tough. But it has made me a stronger person now than I was back then. Hopefully I can come back a better player.
“I always planned to come back this season, around the New Year.
“You always take the longest possible number and see how the knee’s progressing week after week.
“Every case is different so the 12-month diagnosis was just the guideline for the supporters as well. We’ve worked really hard on it and I’m glad to be back. I just set myself the goal of getting back this season.
“We didn’t look at the long picture, just getting my knee strong and setting little targets every few weeks or couple of months.
“A year is a long time mentally and it can get you down if you get bogged down. So if you take short steps, it’s a lot easier.”