David Brooks, the Bournemouth midfielder, is set to make his return to the Wales team in June after successfully battling Stage-2 Hodgkin lymphoma. The 25-year-old made a cameo appearance as a substitute in the 3-0 Premier League defeat to Aston Villa last weekend, marking his first game in 536 days. Brooks then scored a hat-trick in a 45-minute outing for Bournemouth’s development side as they beat Portsmouth 5-2 in the Hampshire Senior Cup on Tuesday. Wales coach Robert Page has praised Brooks’ powers of recovery but left the 21-cap star out of his squad for this month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Croatia and Latvia because he felt it was too soon. However, Page has given Brooks the realistic target of a summer comeback for the Dragons, with Group D clashes versus Armenia and Turkey.
Page said: “We had a positive conversation. It’s a great achievement for him after what he has been through. He has had his first involvement, and it’s all about his rehab now and getting match fitness. It was unrealistic for him to come for these two games against Croatia and Latvia. But I have told him about how important he is for me – and to the future of Welsh football. There are camps in June, and he can’t wait to be a part of it again. He is an incredible talent, so to have someone like him coming back into the fold is great for all of us and gives us all a lift.”
Brooks’ hat-trick versus Portsmouth did not go unnoticed by his Wales teammates, who are preparing for their opening qualifier in Split on Saturday. Bournemouth defender Chris Mepham, a close friend of Brooks for club and country, said: “I was buzzing. I knew he had a game, and I was checking on my phone… one goal, David Brooks, two goals, three goals. I was slightly disappointed when I saw the goals themselves. I wouldn’t say it’s the most exhilarating hat trick I’ve ever seen in my life! But it was good to see, especially with what he’s gone through. And to have an amazing moment of coming on the other day for his first Premier League game back.”