Rovers defender Sam Barnes has set a return to full training before the end of the season as a milestone for him to work towards.

It is now seven months since Barnes underwent surgery after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury during a behind-closed-doors game in August.

It robbed the 22-year-old of a potential Rovers debut after impressing Jon Dahl Tomasson in pre-season.

Barnes has since worked hard on his rehabilitation, documenting his recovery to help deal with the ‘trauma’ of the injury.

The Academy product was handed a new two-year contract as a result of his progress in pre-season, and now back out on the training pitches doing some light work, he’s targeting being involved with the first-team again before the season is out.

“I’m on the grass now, the building up of running and changing direction, and I should be back in training hopefully the last two or three weeks of the season which is quite a big thing,” he said.

“At one point we weren’t sure that would happen and would just be focusing on pre-season, but we should be able to get a couple of weeks training in.

“I’ll be happy and class that as a success.

“It’s like a prize, I’ve worked so hard to get myself in a position to train the last couple of weeks and come back in pre-season ready to go.”

Barnes said there was a nervous excitement when he got his boots back on and left the confines of the gym to start working again on the training pitch.

That has allowed him to feel like a footballer again, and see ‘light at the end of a tunnel’ after a difficult period on the sidelines.

“I’d say I have surprised myself,” he told RoversTV.

“I didn’t think I would cope as well as I have done mentally.

“I think talking with the physios and psychologists, even just my family, I’ve been pretty focused throughout and kept remaining myself I want to come back the best player I can be.

“Watching the team perform the way they have I’ve been thinking that I want to play in this team, I want to be part of the team and hopefully playing in the team.

“I’m like a front seat fan and being around the lads, I’ve grown up watching a few who’ve been here for a while and to play with them is great and I can’t wait until I can play with them.”

Barnes has charted his recovery ever since his surgery and says doing so has given him a perspective of how far he has come when he otherwise wouldn’t have thought so.

He added: “It’s crazy. I made sure I documented it from the start and I think that’s probably helped me during the process to understand where I was.

“That helped me during the times where I thought nothing had really changed, but looking back at my video and me taking half an hour to get down stairs, I think looking back at the videos has helped me get through this process.

“I can pretty much do everything now, jumping, changing direction, running and kicking balls, so from where I came from it’s a long way and it’s good to say that I’m feeling comfortable doing it.”