SOUTHEND United goalkeeper Ted Smith has spoken of his relief after finally ending 17 months of injury frustration.

Smith had been sidelined with shoulder and hamstring problems before starting Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy clash with Portsmouth.

And the 22-year-old - who had not played since facing Newport County back in August 2017 - was delighted to be back in action, despite the 2-0 defeat.

“From a personal point of view it was nice to be back out there because it’s been a long time coming,” said Smith.

“August 2017 was a long time ago and it’s been tough for me.

“The hardest point was not knowing what it was.

“In the end I had an operation and they worked out that my shoulder blade was in two pieces and had to be screwed back together.

“The symptoms weren’t showing that but luckily the operation went well and, touch wood, my shoulder is feeling better than it did before.

“It’s been tough and there have been so many ups and downs but it’s great to be back out there playing at Roots Hall.”

And Smith was also keen to thank those who had helped him regain full fitness.

“When you’re stuck in the treatment room so many things go through your head but I’ve had great people around me,” said the shot-stopper.

“I can’t even tell you how much Ben Clarkson has done for me.

“Jamie Dyer, the assistant physio, has been great too along with Lee Harrison and the gaffer. They’ve all put an arm round me and helped me get back.

“When you’re a kid you grow up wanting to be a footballer and to have it taken away from you for that long is really tough.”

As a result, Smith was thrilled to be back against Portsmouth, even though Blues were well below their best.

“You don’t need me to tell you it wasn’t a great game and that we were poor but it was great to be part of it again,” said Smith.

“Matchdays are so different to training and I just need to get as many minutes as I can now, with the under-23s or whoever.”

But Smith is fully aware it will be tough to stay in the first team.

“Bish (Nathan Bishop) and Ox (Mark Oxley) have had a great season too,” said Smith. “I have my work cut out but at least I’m in a position to be able to give it a go rather than just having to sit there and watch.”