Midfielder Rhyle Ovenden hopes to climb the football ladder with Worthing after returning to action on Saturday following a frustrating ten months on the sidelines.
The 20-year-old was with Brighton and Chesterfield as a youngster before spending a year as a pro with Watford, when he travelled with the first-team squad to Premier League games.
Ovenden was released by the Hornets last year and after a brief spell with Whitehawk he joined Worthing in October.
He played five matches before suffering a partial tear of his ACL in a match against Dorking in November.
A further setback in March meant he missed the rest of the season but he finally made his return to action in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Haringey Borough, which continued Worthing’s unbeaten start to the season and moved them up to second in the Bostik League Premier Division table.
Ovenden, who has been capped for Wales from under-16 level up to under-20, said: “It was a good feeling to play again.”
“I hadn’t been out for longer than a month before, so it had been a horrible time. It was very frustrating but I’d still been going to all of the games and supporting the boys. I’d also been doing my physio with Natalie (Stenning) on training nights and didn’t keep away from football at all during my injury because I also coach so it was football, football, football every day.”
Ovenden has ambitions to get back up the football pyramid and said:
“I’ve been really impressed with how good everything is at Worthing. The fans are really good and the club is very professional, so I’m really happy here.”
“I want to go higher and it would be nice to go higher with Worthing. That’s the ambition but we’ll just have to see how it goes this year. We’ve got a good, young squad and there’s loads of us who want to go higher and hopefully we will. A few of us do extra training with Hinsh (Adam Hinshelwood; manager) on a Wednesday morning and that shows how determined we are to go higher.”
“We’ve made a good start this season but we’re just trying to go game by game. There’s not any real target at the moment in terms of position.”
Ovenden said he used his release by Watford as a motivation to prove people wrong – and that he can have a career higher up the leagues.
He said: “I think it was pretty much just one guy’s decision why I was released and I was shocked because I was one of the only players from the under-23s training fairly regularly with the first team at the time. Just two weeks beforehand I’d been in the squad for the Spurs away game but it’s just one of those things.”
“There’s quite a lot of people who I want to prove wrong but at the moment, I just want to play football and see what comes of that.”
Hinshelwood is pleased to have Ovenden back available and said: “He’s been showing great signs in training and has been chomping at the bit.”
“He’s a talented boy with his passing range and we’ve got a really competitive squad now.”
Worthing head to division-lower Faversham in the FA Cup first qualifying round on Saturday before travelling to Leatherhead in the Velocity Trophy on Wednesday.
Prize money of £6,000 is up for grabs at Faversham and Hinshelwood said: “There is the added incentive of the prize money on Saturday but at the same time we want to do well in the League Cup as well. We’ve got the squad to compete in cup competitions this year.”