Shaun Barker made his first start in three years as Derby County’s Under-21s drew 1-1 with Doncaster Rovers on Wednesday afternoon.The Rams' club captain has been sidelined since March 2012 when he picked up a serious knee injury against East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.
However, he was finally able to start a Final Third Development League Cup game, completing the first 45 minutes while fellow long-term knee-injury victim George Thorne played 86 minutes.
On Twitter, the defender said: “To play 45 minutes in a competitive game after almost 3 years is easily my proudest, greatest and most emotional moment in my career!! #dcfc
“Can't thank those that have stood by me enough! Self belief is so important, having others around u to help share the belief is imperative!
“Thanks for the messages too! Everyone from teammates, fans, friends, old colleagues and rival fans have tweeted some lovely messages! Xx”
Current Rams players also tweeted their support for Barker on his return.
Will Hughes said: ”Brilliant to see @barks5 return after 3 years! Dedication has been unbelievable #classact”
While Jeff Hendrick added: "Good to see @barks5 back out there today. Good 45mins under your belt now. You've put a lot of hard work in to get there pal"