Billy Brooks reflects on his time in Lincoln City’s academy, his lengthy ACL injury and his chance to prove himself at Lincoln United.
A late winner and a shootout deciding penalty. It’s been the perfect return for Billy Brooks in a Lincoln United shirt.
The 19-year-old left Lincoln City in June, after a spell in their academy. A long stretch sidelined with an ACL injury has condemned him to time away from the football pitch.
But, Billy Brooks is back – and firing on all cylinders.
“It’s a dream start really, that’s what I’m there to do. To help create and score goals,” he said.
“It’s been a great week, Saturday was an amazing day to be involved in. It was really special, we took two coaches full of fans over the country. To score the winning penalty is the icing on the cake, but it was a great day out.”
Hitting the ground running:
Brooks scored the penalty at South Liverpool FC that sent United into the Isuzu FA Vase round of 16, booking a tie with Hallam FC.
“It’s just what I needed, so hopefully now I can hit the ground running and keep on getting those vital goals to help the team.”
Lincoln United sit top of their division, riding the crest of a wave, in the form of 21 consecutive victories. You have to trawl back to September to find the last time ‘The Whites’ tasted defeat.
“It’s been great. I love the lads, I love Chris [Funnell]. He’s a top manager and the players are top players. There’s a reason they’ve got 21 wins in a row because it’s a fantastic place to be. The togetherness in the group is bang on.”
Speaking on the Monday after the Saturday before, Brooks looked forward to his permanent spell at ‘The Whites’.
He said: “It’s been a hell of a long injury coming back from my ACL and getting released from Lincoln [City] in June, so the main aim was to get first team football and minutes, so it’s been a great, great start to that.”
Billy Brooks on his exit from Lincoln City:
Brooks spent some 14 months on the sidelines, his footballing career halted by a cruel ACL injury. It brought his time at Lincoln City to an end.
He said: “I want to say a massive thank you to the medical staff at Lincoln City, the coaches and players that have helped me through everything there. Everyone at Lincoln City supported me and I’m grateful for that.”
Despite his contract with the Imps running out during the past season, Brooks remained with the League One club until his rehabilitation was complete, training with the under-18s to regain fitness.
He is clear that there is no bad blood between him and his former side: “I’ve got no regrets, I loved my time at Lincoln [City]. I’ve been there ever since under-13s, so it’s definitely a place I will always have in my heart. I was have friends for the rest of my life from the people I met there.”
The former Republic of Ireland under-18s and under-19s international is keen to revitalise his career after his injury.
He said: “I’m confident. I just want to prove to the team and the fans that I’m capable.”
Onwards and upwards:
“I feel like how I was before the injury, like the player I was before, I feel like I’ve got that sharpness. So, I’m just ready to kick on now.”
Brooks strikes a confident tone, backed up by a match winner and converted pressure penalty in his first two games back at Lincoln United.
He said: “I’m delighted because I know Chris [Funnell] from the last time I was there on loan, and I love the players there. They’re all great lads.”
“It feels like the right place for me know, it’s a great time to kick on. The lads have already done brilliant this season, so it’s a great place to be at the minute.” – Billy Brooks
Brooks spent part of 2022 on loan at Ashby Avenue, where he first linked up with manager Chris Funnell.
He has returned to a success side in a rich vein of form, but he is keen to carve himself a place in the team.
“I’ve had a couple training sessions with them, and every player has to earn their spot in the team so, I’ve got to continue working hard to help them keep the winning streak going,” Brooks said.
United are battling on multiple fronts, but one that Brooks has his eye on is the FA Vase.
‘The Whites’ are just three wins away from walking out onto the turf at Wembley Stadium – a dream for all English footballers.
Brooks said: “Promotion is definitely the aim and we’ll see how far we can go in the FA Vase now…we’ve got to take one game at a time. Obviously playing at Wembley is in the back of your mind, that would be a dream come true.”
Billy Brooks is the youthful injection that could keep Lincoln United on the upward trajectory they’re on. He has made his presence felt already, but there could be even more to come before the season draws to a close.
Feature Image Credit: Ed Mayes Photography