RETURNING star Jack Stacey said it had been “tough” to miss a chunk of Cherries’ push for promotion and admitted he was “almost itching to get back”.

The flying full-back made his return to action, playing 67 minutes of his team’s 4-1 FA Cup third-round triumph against Oldham on Saturday.

It ended a run of 10 games without featuring for the 24-year-old, who suffered knee ligament damage during a 4-2 Championship home win against Reading in November.

Stacey told the Daily Echo: “It was really tough, to be fair.

“I think it was seven weeks (out) but in the Championship you miss a lot of games because they come up so quickly.

“It can be a lonely place at times when you are injured. Luckily, watching the team do so well over this period helped a little bit.

“But I was almost itching to get back and help out as well as I could.”

Former Luton man Stacey had featured in Cherries’ opening 12 league contests before being struck down by the injury.

He played 90 minutes against the Royals but revealed the full severity of the damage came to light the following day.

“It was a strange one. It was almost just adrenaline getting me through,” explained the defender.

“It wasn’t until the next day when I woke up, the knee was really inflamed and I couldn’t properly put pressure on it – I realised something serious couldn’t have happened there.

“Within the game, I just wanted to get through it. We were 2-0 down at that point at half-time as well, so I almost felt there was no way I could come off now, I wanted to do my best for us to get back into the game.”

Stacey’s recovery had been aided thanks to the companionship of team-mates Chris Mepham and Cameron Carter-Vickers – the latter also banishing his injury problems to feature against the Latics.

“Me, Meps and Cam had been doing the altitude bike chambers together, runs and weights, so it’s nice to have someone to push you and go along that process with you.

“I feel good – I could have played 90 but they (the club) look after me and that’s fair enough. I’m ready for the run of games coming up.

“Any time the team need me, I’ll be there.”

Stacey could once again be involved when Cherries host Millwall in the Championship tomorrow (7.45pm).

Speaking about the full-back ahead of the clash with the Lions, manager Jason Tindall said: “I'm really pleased with Jack.

"I thought he delivered an excellent performance for the duration of the time he was on the pitch (against Oldham) and you could see his quality and how well he gets forwards for us from that position.

"He capped off his performance with a really nice assist, so I'm really pleased with how he played and speaking with him and seeing how he was out on the training pitch, he's feeling good.

“He's happy being back out there with the boys and looking forward to now being involved.”