Nottingham Forest midfielder Chris Cohen says his first appearance in 15 months in Saturday's 1-1 Championship draw at Charlton was "incredible".
Cohen had been out recovering from a third knee injury in as many years, sustained in a draw with rivals Derby County in September 2014.
The 28-year-old, who joined from Yeovil in 2005, came on as a substitute at The Valley late in the second-half.
"It's been a long time coming," Cohen told BBC Radio Nottingham.
"It makes all the hard work worthwhile, I've had a few setbacks along the way.
"As positive as I've been sometimes you do wonder if it will ever happen.
"The result wasn't what we wanted with them going down to 10 men but from a selfish point of view it was incredible and the reception I got was amazing."
Former West Ham United trainee Cohen has become a hugely popular figure at the City Ground, not only for his efforts on the field and his captaincy, but also for his continued efforts to return to fitness after long-term injury.
"You do go back to how it was, it does feel very normal, being on the bench was a bit weird because I am normally playing or injured," Cohen added.
"I'm just buzzing to be back out there, but we need to win games of football.
"That's the most important thing, as happy as I am today to be back out there we really need to be beating teams like Charlton who were probably there for the taking."
Cohen said he expected to be nurtured back into regular action but was hopeful of impressing boss Dougie Freedman between now and the end of the campaign.
"The manager has been fantastic with me, he's told me I'm not going to play every game which I completely understand, my idea is to try to change his mind and be a player he can't drop," he added.
"But if I can play as well as I can, I know I can recover and play every game if needed.
"I'm here to help the team as much as I can and whatever part I have to play I will give it my all as I always have done."