Brooks boost as Cymru target Euro 2024

Wales' David Brooks and team mate Connor Roberts celebrate at full time during the 2022 FIFA World Cup play-off final between Wales & Ukraine at the Cardiff City Stadium on the 5th of June 2022

Manager Rob Page is expecting an emotional reunion when his squad head to Portugal for a training camp ahead of the EURO 2024 qualifiers against Armenia and Türkiye as David Brooks prepares to represent his country once again, two years after last wearing the Cymru shirt.

Diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma back in October 2021, Brooks will mark another key milestone in his recovery journey when he returns to the Cymru squad next week having featured for AFC Bournemouth in the final weeks of the Premier League season. Brooks’ last game for Cymru was at the EURO finals as Page’s side exited the tournament with defeat to Denmark in the R16 in June 2021.

“I wanted to pick him in March, if I’m being honest,” said Page on the player he has kept a close eye on since his time as Cymru U21 manager. “I saw that he played some minutes before our camp in March and I was keen to get him involved as soon as possible.  It was too quick, too soon, I get that, and it was more beneficial for him to stay behind. But now it’s a different situation, different circumstances, he’s back fit playing and starting games.”

Following his last appearance for Cymru, injury ruled Brooks out of the squad in September 2021 as five points from games against Finland, Belarus and Estonia moved Page’s side a step closer to Qatar, but he returned the following month for the World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Estonia. However, Page and his backroom staff were concerned over the drop in his training performance and his clear weight loss, and it was during his preparation for those games that the devastating diagnosis was made.

“I went away with Wales and they do the medical checks at the start,” said Brooks in an emotional interview with the official AFC Bournemouth website recently. “I just kind of asked for paracetamol and said: ‘I’m struggling to sleep.’ I had that conversation with the doc and went back to my room as if nothing had happened. And then I just got a knock on the door 20 minutes later. He obviously didn’t want to do it in front of the lads. He said: ‘I don’t want to alarm you but everything you’ve told us is a side effect of cancer.’ You don’t really believe it when he says the word. Obviously you have a bit of a cry and hope that everything’s going to be alright.”

Wales' David Brooks during the last 16 fixture of the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship Tournament between Wales & Denmark at the Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Holland, 26th of June 2021

Six months of chemotherapy treatment took its toll on Brooks both physically and mentally, but in May 2022 he was given the all clear. Another long journey of physical rehabilitation followed as he pushed himself to get back to the level required to play at the very highest standard, and his efforts were rewarded in March this year when he was named on the bench for the Premier League match against Aston Villa. Brooks than made his first Premier League start for Bournemouth almost 600 days in May as Manchester United visited the Vitality Stadium.

“I’ve touched base with him via text and he can’t wait to get back on camp,” explained Page at his squad announcement. “He’s really excited about meeting back up with the players and he’s a great addition for us. We need to use common sense but we’ve got one of the best medical team around when called upon. They will be in contact with Bournemouth, we will absolutely show them that respect. It’s all about Brooksy. It’s about his health and getting in him the best place. If we have to tweak his sessions throughout the week, and his loadings, then we will do.

“Understandably, from what his body’s been through he’s going to pick up the odd minor injury, soft tissue injury, so we will manage him slightly different, no doubt, but it’s all about getting him ready and fit for the matchday. I think he’s going to have to be patient as well. He’s a gifted footballer, he won’t lose that, but it’s about how he now gets his body in a physical condition to cope with the demands of what top football gives you. Is he going to start two games for me in June? Probably not. It might be that he has little cameo roles, but we’ll assess that when we get him on camp.”

But while Brooks’ minutes will be monitored and his contribution may be limited, his return to full health is what matters more than anything, and his presence on camp will offer a timely boost for the squad as they look to build on the draw with Croatia and victory over Latvia in the opening round of qualifying games in Group D. Brooks will turn 26 next month and returns to a Cymru side entering a new era following the World Cup in Qatar. With his darkest days behind him, his target now is to lead his country to Germany next summer.

Learn more from FA Wales

Sign up to receive all things FAW, from team news, tickets, domestic, grassroots, to exclusive offers and prize draws.

We respect your privacy and are committed to protecting your personal data – view our privacy policy by clicking here.