DEAN READINGS is aiming to return to action by the start of the season.

Readings broke a tibular bone in three places at Banstead in December and it was thought he would be out for one year.

However, the popular Whites defender is making excellent progress and has been building up his fitness for the past month.

He said: “I am swimming and on the exercise bikes now – and feeling a lot better. My ankle still hurts but I don’t need to see any specialists now. It is just being allowed to naturally heal and then it’s up to me to prove my fitness.

“I’m going to pull out all the stops to be ready for pre-season. I’m very hopeful of being fit for the start of the season but, of course, will only come back if everything is 100 per cent right. I won’t rush back for the sake of it.”

Readings has not yet been offered a new contract – and been told he must prove his fitness first. So the defender knows the ball is firmly in his court.

He said: “Clive Walker has spoken to me and said that he knows what I’m all about so it’s just a case of me proving my fitness. Then we can sit down and discuss a new contract. That’s fair enough so it’s up to me now.

“I am desperate to get back out there to play. It’s been so frustrating watching from the touchline. I was so gutted after the Tonbridge game because we’d been on such an excellent run, but gifted them a two-goal lead after being the far superior team.

“It just wasn’t meant to be at the end. All those injuries we’ve had cost us promotion. It was actually an achievement to reach the play-offs after being so heavily handicapped.

“With a fully-fit squad, we’d have won the league. We won our first seven league games, and then the Dartford game changed our fortunes. We picked up a load of injuries against them and never really recovered in that middle third of the season.

“And Jimmy Dryden’s injury was just another big kick in the teeth, first just after we signed him and again when he limped off at Met Police early in the opening play-off game.

“There are not many defences at this level who can cope with Jimmy and he was a big miss.

“But it’s good to see that the squad is sticking together and Clive is looking at bringing in two or three quality signings. Touch wood, we won’t have such wretched luck with injuries next season and can make a bigger impact on the league.

“I also think the board are absolutely right to stick with Clive. All the players are delighted with that. Panic decisions, such as those made in the past by previous boards, are not in the best interests of the club. Clive is definitely the right man for the job.

“We want to do it for the fans – they are the ones who really lift us out on the pitch. And they proved how great they are by turning up to games in large numbers and supporting the boys to the last kick at Tonbridge.

“They are a credit to Dover Athletic and we owe them big time. Hopefully we can go one better next season and win promotion.”

Finally, Deano would like to say a big thank you to all the people who have wished him well during the past six months.

He said: “It really lifts you and makes you want to get fit quickly to get back out there.”