Exclusive Interview: Okore - Fan support has overwhelmed me
Jores Okore has revealed that Villa heroes past and present - and the club's magnificent fans - have inspired him during his long road to recovery.
Okore has stepped up his fitness bid over the past two weeks, training outside with the physiotherapists - as he looks to return from the serious knee injury he suffered in the game against Newcastle in September.
The central defender admits to feeling "fantastic" at the progress he's made these past six months and now can't wait to prove himself when the next season comes along.
He said: "I feel great. I am getting along really well. Everything is improving.
"I feel really positive. It's been a really tough start to my Villa career with the injury. I was really unlucky.
"But now I am getting closer to training again with the boys so that's a massive boost. I can't wait to be back.
"Just being outside now is fantastic. It's a great feeling. To be outside running, turning and twisting feels really great. I haven't done that in a really long time. It's fantastic.
"It's a little bit tough still because you're not there yet - you're close but not quite.
"You see the boys doing things out there on the training pitches and you wish you could do them too. You want to do more. But patience is absolutely key.
"I have come a long way and this is the final stage of my recovery now. Being outside is a sign that you're getting really, really close. Now it's about biding my time.
"Looking back to the start of the season, I was so excited about joining the club. I had really high hopes. It was just incredibly unlucky what happened to me.
"I had started playing and I was beginning to show what I could do. I was finding my feet. I really felt that. I was thinking 'this is the Premier League and I am confident here.'
"I felt I was ready to go out and perform every week. I was at the point where I thought 'I have played some games and I can do well at this level.'
"But then the injury came for me. It was a really hard blow. But I am a positive person and I believe I will be back better than before. I am confident I can get out there and play well again.
"I have been keeping a very positive attitude. I have kept telling myself 'you will be out with the boys again soon.' You must always have that attitude.
"I love to play football so I have been focusing on what a great feeling it will be when I'm outside with the lads again doing full training.
"I can't wait to be with my mates. I can't wait to go out there and play for the fans too. That's the thing that has kept me going - that nice feeling of training with the boys and then walking out at Villa Park for big Premier League games.
"It's that team bond, showing great competition with each other to get the starting shirt, playing for three points every week and pulling in the same direction - I can't wait for that.
"Everyone has been really supportive - all the boys. They have all been giving me words of encouragement. They have kept me going.
"I have spoken to Fabian Delph a lot, asking him about the big injuries he has had, what to expect and how he got through them. He's been brilliant. He's helped a lot.
"Now Fabian is playing really good. He proves you can come back from injuries and be really strong in the team. That has helped me. "I have been thinking: "If Fabian can do it then so can I." He's a great example.
"His progression has been unbelievable. He's getting stronger every week. He has grown as a player. He's a big, big player for us.
"He has told me that this injury isn't a big thing - it's just a little blip and it will make me mentally stronger. That has been brilliant.
"I have exchanged a few texts with Martin too. It was good to hear from him.
"It was nice to think he took time out to check how I was. He offered me support.
"It's not always easy being a young guy coming to a new country but he was making sure everything was okay for me. You use all the support like that you can get.
"To be given the support from someone like Martin, who knows the club inside-out, has been fantastic. He has been through similar stuff to me too, injury-wise, so it was obviously good advice. He was a great player too, of course."
Okore admits to being "overwhelmed" by the level of support he has received from the claret and blue fans on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram too - as well as out and about in Birmingham.
He also spoke of a desire to be able to turn around to manager Paul Lambert in the coming months and say: "You were right to buy me."
He added: "I have to make special mention to the fans, also. They have been truly amazing. I just think it's incredible to read their messages of support.
"They don't have to - but they have taken time out of their day to wish me luck and good health. That means so much to me.
"To see them write things like 'we can't wait to see you play again' is terrific for me.
"Let me tell them here now - I can't wait to play for the fans soon too. That will mean a lot to me.
"They have been there for me. It's good that they haven't given up on me!
"Bear in mind that I haven't played a lot in the claret and blue shirt so to receive this amount of support has really touched me. I love that the fans like me.
"It's about next season for me now. I am looking forward to that. I can't wait. It can't come quick enough.
"It will be next season when I get my big chance again to prove myself. I want to show what I can do.
"The manager has been very supportive with me. He bought me - he showed great faith in me and now I want to repay him.
"He bought for me a reason - he must have believed in my ability. I will prove he was right! It's about getting up to speed, getting a good pre-season under my belt and then hopefully playing games.
"I am so determined to play well and impress and prove my ability to everyone - the players, the manager and the fans.
"I think next season will be the one that counts for me.
"I just want to be able to turn around to the manager and say 'you were right to buy me.' I want to repay his faith. I want to develop here and be the best player I can be. I want to make a difference."
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