SOUTHEND United winger Sam Barratt is heading into the New Year pleased with the progress he is making with his long-term knee injury.

Barratt is facing up to another eight months on the sidelines with the cruciate ligament injury he suffered in an under-23 match against Stevenage in August.

But the 23-year-old - who joined the Shrimpers in the summer - is determined to keep his spirits high as he bids to work his way back to full fitness.

“It’s going really well and the time has flown by to be honest,” said Barratt.

“It’s been four months since the operation and it’s been going really well.

“Everything is good. I’m being put through my paces but the surgeon is happy so I’m making good progress.”

Barratt was Blues’ first signing of the summer as he made the step up from Maidenhead United to finally fulfil his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

But, after just one substitute appearance for the first team, the wide-man was forced onto the sidelines after lining up for the under-23s.

“I was topping up the tank for my fitness in the under-23s game,” recalled Barratt.

“I had a shot and someone came in and blocked my knee.

“It caused some serious damage but it was just a complete freak injury.”

The setback came just a few days after Barratt had made his League debut as a second half substitute against Doncaster Rovers on the opening day of the season.

And he initially found the setback tough to take.

“I was gutted at the time and it was tough,” said Barratt.

“I was buzzing to get going and pre-season had gone well too.

“I was adapting well and it killed me really.

“I was devastated but I’ve got my head round it now and hopefully I’ll be back stronger.”

But Barratt is still facing quite some time out of action.

“We were looking at about 12 months after the operation, which was four months ago now,” said the winger.

“Hopefully I should be fit for the first game of next season but it’s my first long-term injury and it’s a struggle.”

However, Barratt has softened the blow by continuing to work as an artist.

“It does keep my mind off things and it’s something else to focus on rather than football and the injury,” he added.