YOU won't find Adnan Ahmed complaining about having to go to work over the forthcoming holiday period.
Christmas came early for the 21-year-old midfielder when he came off the bench 68 minutes into last Saturday's League I match at Bristol City.
Town's 2-0 defeat took gloss off the afternoon, but there was some consolation for Ahmed in simply coming through his first senior appearance of the season after being sidelined by a nagging knee problem.
"Like all the lads, I was disappointed at the result, but I'm really happy to be back playing," said the ambitious Town Academy product.
"It's been a very frustrating spell, and I've been looking forward to playing first-team football again for a long time."
Tough tackler Ahmed, who backed up his Ashton Gate outing by playing the full 90 minutes for the Reserves in the 1-0 Pontin's Holidays League Division I Central win at Barnsley on Wednesday afternoon, added: "I feel better than I have done for ages, and that's a big relief.
"I'd had a couple of attempted comebacks earlier in the season which ended fairly quickly, so to feel okay physically this time is a major relief.
"I've been back in training for a month, and I was on the bench for the games against Bradford City, Nottingham Forest and MK Dons, which gave me a lift.
"To have finally got into the action feels great, and now the games can't come quickly enough for me, because I really want to stake my claim."
Having made his debut at Rochdale two seasons ago, Ahmed established himself during the second half of last season, when he played 20 games in all and was a key performer in Town's impressive closing run of eight wins and a draw in nine.
He was looking forward to picking up where he left off.
But his pre-season was interrupted by knee pain, and it's taken time to treat what was diagnosed as tendinitis.
"I think it really goes back to what you could call my pre-pre-season," explained Burnley-born Ahmed, who as a youngster, had time at Bury and Manchester United before being offered a Town Academy place.
"I was keen to maintain my fitness over the close-season break, and I did quite a lot of work on my own in the gym.
"The sessions included leg weights, and I must have strained the tendons a little.
"When we stepped things up in pre-season, I started to feel discomfort, and it was one of those where I kept coming back only to break down again.
"I played a couple of friendlies, then after another spell out, a couple of Reserve matches early in the season, but the injury was still flaring up, and I was having trouble just running properly.
"In the end, I had to rest then do a special programme of exercises under the supervision of (physio) Lee Martin.
"The aim was to gradually get the strength back into the joint.
"While it was frustrating to have to sit around while all the other lads were enjoying playing matches, it was just something I had to go through.
"Now I feel good, and having done well in a fitness `bleep' test the other day, I'm optimistic I'll be fine from now on."