Valon Behrami has spoken of his joy after making a triumphant return to action for West Ham United.
The popular Switzerland midfielder, who has been sidelined for six months with a knee ligament injury, played for an hour before being withdrawn as planned in Tuesday's 6-0 Barclays Premier Reserve League South win over Birmingham City. With a broad smile and a thump or two of his hand on his chest, Behrami acknowledged the rapturous response from the crowd as he left the pitch.
CHECK OUT DIAMANTI AND HIS GOALS ON THE HOMEPAGE FREEPLAYER
Behrami had been back to his old self at the Boleyn Ground, endlessly harrying his opponents and driving his own team forward at every opportunity. The 24-year-old told WHUTV he was delighted to be back in a claret and blue shirt.
He said: "I enjoyed it a lot. For me, I've had a very hard six months. Every day, I had to work on my rehabilitation so it was a great feeling for me to play in this game. It was a target for me over the last six months just to arrive here and be fit and just to enjoy what I'm doing. It was fantastic for me.
"This, for me, is a great day, and I hope this day never returns again and I never have this difficult situation again like the last six months."
Behrami was part of a superb all-round performance from Alex Dyer's side, with new signing Alessandro Diamanti netting two free-kicks and young striker Zavon Hines grabbing a clinical hat-trick.
The midfielder was impressed with the performances of his team-mates, including those of Hines and fellow teenagers Fabio Daprela and Davide Ferrari, the full-backs who have recently joined the Hammers from Grasshopper Zurich and Brescia Calcio respectively.
"It was a great game and a great team. We have a lot of young, good quality players and that is a very good thing for this club. Every single young player is very good and has quality. West Ham United must be happy about this because I think we have a great future."
Having successfully come through his first competitive action since he was injured in the Barclays Premier League victory over Manchester City on 1 March, Behrami is now eyeing a first-team comeback.
However, rather than rushing himself back, he is more than willing to allow any decisions over his comeback to be made by manager Gianfranco Zola and his staff.
"I don't know when I will return, but I am ready now. I am ready when Mister needs me," he added to WHUTV. "I am not scared about my injury. Now it is up to the manager what he is thinking about me. I can only say I am ready and then it is a decision of the technical staff."