Dylan relishing international return

Dylan Tombides will make an emotional return to international action with Australia this week.

Two-and-a-half years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer while in action for his country at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup finals, the West Ham United forward will be on AFC U22 Championship duty in Oman.

Australia kicked-off their Group C campaign with a 1-0 win over Kuwait on Sunday before returning to the Oman Police Stadium to face Iran on Tuesday and Japan on Thursday. Should they finish in the top two in their group, Aurelio Vidmar's squad will reach the quarter-finals.

Tombides, 19, is naturally excited about pulling on an Australia again.

"It's a massive honour," he confirmed to West Ham TV. "It's been a long time since I pulled the green and gold shirt on so I'm thrilled and looking forward to it massively.

"It's a big tournament for Australia. I spoke to the manager about it and it's looking forward to the 2016 Olympic Games, so he has talked to me about that. This is the lead-up to that and the squad is a group of boys looking to be involved in the Olympics, so it's fantastic to be there.

"I'm looking forward to it. We have had pre-season trips to Dubai with West Ham and the teams we met out there were always quick and lively, so I'm expecting them to be similar. It'll be a good competition."

For Tombides, a return to international duty is especially pertinent considering it was during a random drug test following a FIFA U-17 World Cup fixture in Mexico that his illness was initially spotted. The treatment the striker received following its discovery saved his life.

"It'll be very emotional. It's good to be back in the frame of things after two years or so when I haven't put an Australian top on. At the time, I wouldn't think [a return] would be possible, so I'm thrilled to be back."

While Tombides is looking forward to his return to international duty, he can also look back proudly on an encouraging opening half of the 2013/14 season at West Ham.

"It's been a very eventful season. I've had my ups and downs, not that I couldn't get in the team, but that my health kept me out of the team. My health obviously comes first, but when the opportunity comes to play, I want to be there."

Away from the pitch, Tombides has also got himself involved in raising awareness of male cancer, attending a number of fundraising events. In November, he was invited to the 'One For The Boys' dinner for Cancer Awareness at Harrods by host and Hollywood film star Samuel L. Jackson.

"He hosted a private event at Harrods for the 'One For The Boys' charity which was a great night," said Tombides. "We had the chef Michael Caines cook for us and the food was amazing. Samuel L. Jackson was a lovely genuine bloke and it was a fun night.

"Peter Andre was there as well. I'd already met him at an event at Stratford and being Australian we had a bit in common and got chatting away! It was a fantastic night and I loved it."

Finally, when asked for his hopes for 2014, Tombides gave a simple, honest and moving response.

"My health. I'd take health any day of the week. I want to get back to my usual self again. Football, health and living are important to me and I don't want to see anyone struggle through any illnesses. I know what it's like to go through that so I wish everyone a healthy 2014."