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Lee Barnard insists he'll come back stronger for his experiences in what he described as 'my worst season ever'.

Lee Barnard insists he'll come back stronger for his experiences in what he described as 'my worst season ever'.The striker was determined to make his mark when pre-season rolled around last July. He was returning to training having enjoyed the season of his life in 2005-06 when he was top scorer in the reserve league nationwide and impressed in substitute appearances for the first team in his Premiership breakthrough.

Last season was Barney’s time to kick on again, but the opposite happened.

Although he scored the winner against Nice in our training camp in Evian, an ankle problem was nagging away and eventually forced him out of action.

He didn’t return until our reserve trip to Chelsea in March.

“It’s all ifs and buts,” reflected Barney on the season that wasn’t. “The injury didn’t help and if I’m honest, it’s been the worst season ever for me. I only played four games and that says it all. At the start of the season I really wanted to be involved more in the first team, but it wasn’t to be.

“I got my chance the previous season, thought I did okay and I was looking to come back in pre-season and really give it a go.

“I scored in Evian but I was struggling then with my ankle, pre-season wasn’t the best and I needed to sort out the problem. It wasn’t great timing but what can you do?

“You always have to look at the positives, sometimes it’s hard to, but that’s how you have to deal with it. Mentally it was tough but hopefully it’s made me stronger. I’m sure I’m stronger for it, mentally and physically and it’s just the sharpness I need now. I’m playing catch up but I’ll work in the summer and I’ll give it a real go next season.”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Barney must have been heartened to be involved in first team squads almost immediately after his return and he made the bench in the UEFA Cup quarter-final second leg against Sevilla.

“It was great to get back in the squad towards the end of the season and it was wonderful to make it onto the bench at Sevilla, that brought back great memories,” he added. “I just want to play more games now.

“I think I’ve improved as a player. Next season is a big season for me. It would be nice to be in and around the first team again, to be in a few squads, on the bench and maybe play once or twice. I need that now at my age and I’m ready for it.”