LONDON (AFP) - Arsenal winger Theo Walcott played 45 minutes for the club's Under-21 side against Blackburn on Friday as he finally returned to action after his knee injury nightmare.
Walcott had been sidelined for nine months after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the closing stages of Arsenal's FA Cup third round victory against Tottenham in January.
The 25-year-old missed Arsenal's FA Cup final win over Hull and England's World Cup campaign while he recovered from the injury and he conceded it had been a gruelling road back to fitness.
"It has been a hard, long nine months," Walcott told Sky Sports News after featuring for the first half of Friday's 0-0 draw. "I always need to go out there and play to the best of my ability. I don't think about picking up little knocks - I think about the game. That's what I did tonight, and I got through fine."
Although Walcott was relieved to come through unscathed, he ruled out playing in Arsenal's Premier League clash against Hull on Saturday and said he had no intention of rushing his return to first-team action.
"It was a massive blow when it happened, but I am focused on the present now and I will take it day by day," he said.
"I need to be patient with myself. It is important to recover. I need to be patient. The manager will choose to play me when he wants - it (the injury) needs to be managed as well."