AARON Martin cannot wait to get back on the pitch for Oxford United tonight after completing his seven-month recovery from a snapped Achilles tendon.

The centre back’s determination to overcome the problem meant he did not have a summer break and the long hours in the gym have put him ahead of schedule.

As a result, he is set to play this evening, when the U’s face Middlesbrough in a friendly at Albufeira’s Ferreiras Stadium.

The 27-year-old admitted to experiencing plenty of dark days since being stretchered off against Macclesfield Town last December, so is thrilled to be back.

He said: “It was a really bad injury and to get over it like I have I’m really pleased with myself.

“You have to enjoy this game because you never know what’s round the corner, so I’m going to keep the smile on my face, push on and hope for the best.

“I can’t thank everybody at home and the people here enough for keeping me going the way they have.”

The serious injury came after a bumpy start to life at United, where a succession of minor injuries prevented a run in the side after joining on a free transfer last summer.

Martin has sought to write off the last 12 months and is now looking forward to showing what he can do to new boss Pep Clotet.

“I’m just going to forget last year and focus on this season and try to get back to playing how I know I can,” he said.

“The way he (Clotet) wants to play is the style of football I like and I’m quite used to it.

“You get forgotten very quickly in this game, so all you can do is get your head down and work hard.

“I know I can play at this level, I’ve just got to show I’m fit and can still do it. That’s what I feel I’m doing at the moment.”

Having spent so much time counting down to this moment, Martin has even relished the slog of pre-season training – which for most players is a chore.

He said: “If you can ever say you’re enjoying pre-season, then yes, I am.

“Just to be back out there running and kicking a ball about, that’s what makes me happy.”