David Brooks returned after winning his cancer battle - and is determined to help Bournemouth win their relegation fight.

Brooks was given a rapturous welcome by the whole of Villa Park on his first appearance in 536 days. The Welsh international came on as a substitute for Bournemouth after being diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2021.

But he has since been working hard to rebuild his fitness after declaring he was "cancer free" last May having sat out the Cherries’ promotion-winning campaign. Now, the star has set himself a new aim after showing incredible strength and bravery to overcome his shock illness.

Brooks, 25, reflected: “Over the last 18 months, it has been a very difficult time. To get back out there and be a part of the team again was nice. It means everything to be doing the things I like.

“It was a tough 18 months for my mum and dad to watch us go through, too. My girlfriend, Flora, was basically a 24-hour nurse as well, getting me back to health. I never once doubted that I wanted to get back, I always aspired to get back since the diagnosis.

“Watching from the sidelines last year to get back to the Premier League was a tough watch. You want to be a part of these things and I want to do everything I can to help Bournemouth stay up. I think we have more than enough to stay up and it is just about keeping our heads and mentality to keep going.”

Will Bournemouth avoid the drop this season? Have your say in the comments!

Winger Brooks came on for Adam Smith in the 79th minute at Villa Park with the visitors trailing to Douglas Luiz’s opener. He got a memorable reception, adding: “I am grateful to anyone who has supported me through the time.

“I would like to thank all the Villa fans - even when I was warming up, they were saying nice things and giving me a round of applause. I am sure my family will be proud and appreciate that as well.”

Brooks was powerless to stop Jacob Ramsey jinking past Jack Stephens to double the hosts’ lead just a minute after coming on.

Villa then added a third when Emi Buendia headed in from a yard out after Tyrone Mings flicked on Luiz's corner.

Brooks, who has won 21 caps for Wales and featured three times at Euro 2020, added: “It was nice to get back on the pitch and feel involved. But it is a bit of a weird emotion because the game didn’t go as planned - as soon as I got on, the game got away from us.

“Their second goal knocked the wind out our sails and it is tough when you have that many attackers on chasing the game to keep your defensive discipline. The two goals late on were a bit cheap.”

Brooks was left to rue the failure of striker Dominic Solanke to score for the 10th league game. Solanke, 25, smashed 30 goals last term en route to promotion but looks low on confidence. He said: “Dom would be the first to say he had a few opportunities.

“Other players have to get opportunities and put them away to score. It is not just down to Dom but he had a few chances and we could have got something out of the game.” Brooks last played for Bournemouth against Peterborough on September 29 2021 before getting diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a cancer of the lymphatic system.

2023-03-19T16:07:23Z dg43tfdfdgfd