SAMMIE McLeod says making his full Colchester United debut was a milestone moment after an 18-month injury nightmare.

The 20-year-old midfielder made his first professional start for the U’s when he was named in their starting line-up for the EFL Trophy game against West Ham United under-21s, on Tuesday night.

McLeod, who joined Colchester on a two-year deal from Maldon and Tiptree in June 2019, has spent a prolonged period on the sidelines after breaking his leg in a car accident.

But the former Leicester City youngster has been a regular in Steve Ball’s first-team squad so far, this season – and he wants that to continue.

McLeod said: “It’s been a tough 18 months for me and my family.

“But I’m getting over that and I’m progressing every day with the lads in the first team, at the training ground.

“I’m happy to have made my full debut.

“I’ve been out for 18 months with a leg break and I’m just happy to get back on the field and do what I love doing – it’s good to be back.

“The aim is to stay in and around the first team.

“This team are going to do well in the league and I want to be as close as possible to starting some games or coming off the bench - I definitely want to be heavily involved.

“I’ll keep on working hard; I’m in the gym, getting fitter and stronger and I can only get better.

“The manager has said that he expects me to work hard and to keep on giving my all, maybe being better in the final third and getting on the end of crosses and scoring goals.

“All I can do is work hard and get into the gaffer’s ear with the football I play, hopefully get my opportunity and when it does come, I need to take it.”

McLeod started his career with Maidstone United before moving to Leicester and linking up with the Premier League side’s under-23s in January, 2017.

He then joined Maldon and Tiptree, playing under U’s promotion hero Wayne Brown.

“If I’m being honest, it was one of my most enjoyable seasons, being at Maldon and Tiptree,” said McLeod, who made his first senior appearance for the U’s as a late substitute in their 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, last month.

“My season was cut short because of the leg break which wasn’t ideal.

“We had a great group of lads; it was the most enjoyable time I’ve had in football and probably one of my best seasons, scoring 12 or 13 times from midfield.”

McLeod will be hoping to feature again for Colchester when they host Oldham Athletic in League Two, on Saturday.

He admits it was a disappointing team display against West Ham’s youngsters, in the EFL Trophy.

He added: “We need to get back to the training ground and work on things.

“We knew that West Ham would be a technical side who like to move the ball a lot.

“We set up to deal with that but sadly, we didn’t get tight enough but now we need to focus on the next game.”