JONATHAN Woodgate is looking forward to welcoming David Brooks back into his squad as the midfielder edges closer to a return to full fitness.

Brooks has not featured for Cherries since Woodgate became permanent boss, with his last outing coming as a substitute in a 1-0 win over Rotherham United on February 17.

The Wales international has since been nursing an ankle ligament injury.

It is not the first time the 23-year-old has suffered ankle problems since joining Cherries, missing the vast majority of last season after undergoing surgery.

However, thankfully the situation does not look as serious this time around as Brooks has this week been pictured back in full training with the Cherries squad as they gear up for Friday’s Championship battle with Middlesbrough.

Speaking before the international break about Brooks’s recovery, Woodgate told the Daily Echo: “He’s working hard. He’s keeping fit. He’s doing a lot of bike work, so he’ll be fit when he comes back.”

Asked how the former Sheffield United ace has dealt with this latest setback, Woodgate added: “When you’re injured it does play on your mind and it is tough.

“But you can get through it and it makes it even better when you’re out there on the pitch and even when you’re scoring goals.

“You’ve got to put the hard yards in when you’re injured.

“He’s doing that at the minute, so hopefully he benefits from it when he comes back.”

Brooks appeared to be making up for lost time earlier in the campaign, capping his first 90-minute league outing in more than 18 months with a match-winning brace in victory over Birmingham in November.

He then netted the only goal in Wales’s victory over Republic of Ireland the following week.

Should Brooks return to face Boro, it would be the start of what could be a career-defining few months for the talented playmaker.

Cherries currently sit seventh in the Championship table, with nine games remaining to force their way into a play-off spot and keep their hopes alive of making an immediate return to the Premier League.

After that, Brooks is expected to take his place in the Wales squad for the upcoming European Championship, in what would be his first major tournament at international level.

He has missed the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign this week due to injury, but Brooks could feature at the Euros in the summer.

Wales have been drawn alongside Switzerland, Turkey and Italy in Group A, with games scheduled for June.

“It’s a big year for him,” admits Woodgate.

“It’s a big year for us all.”