Reading striker Lauren Bruton has reflected on her return to action after a strong start to the season.  

Currently at a pause in play for the Women’s Super League season, a number of Royals players headed out for the international break, which Bruton admits came at an ‘unfortunate time’.

The Reading forward has been with the Berkshire side since joining from Arsenal in 2013.

Named player of the season in 2016, Bruton has gone on to be capped by England in 2018 before an injury that ruled out the 27-year-old for the duration of the 2019/20 season.

“I had to have an operation in December [2019] and had three months out, I was ready to be back in March," said Bruton, who ended up spending 16 months away from football action.

It was decided by the FA that the 2019/20 season would be curtailed in March and the standings concluded by PPG just as Bruton looked to return from her second long-term injury.

The extended break has therefore had a different impact for the Reading striker.

“It’s kind of strange. It came at a really good time personally for me on reflection,” Bruton explains.

“At the time I was devastated when the season was curtailed, it happened just as I was ready to return to action but on review it gave me the chance to push myself physically to be in a better shape ahead of the current season.

“Looking at it now, it really did help me. Obviously, it’s devastating to the world that Covid has had the impact that it has though."

With the chance for the Reading forward to fully heal from her operation and subsequent rehabilitation, Bruton was given a chance to ‘rebuild herself’ during the extended break which included focusing on gaining a masters degree in sports strength and conditioning.

“The masters is great! While out injured it was something to take my mind away from everything, something to go home to and change my mindset.

"It was a really difficult time and that helped keep my mind focused and not get too frustrated and upset about other things.

“I was just about to come back into training and get some minutes. When you come back from injury during the season, you never have the ideal timescale to return to full fitness.

"I had completed two weeks of running before lockdown hit."

Reading FC’s women side have returned to Berkshire this season plying their trade at the Madejski after spending time at Wycombe’s Adams Park.

Unfortunately, they have been left to play in front of empty stands at the start of the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m really happy we’re at Madejski, it’s been a long time coming. We loved Adams Park, they were really welcoming and accommodating but it just wasn’t convenient for us, not being in Reading.

“We feel more part and parcel of the club being based in Reading.”

“It’s a real shame we don’t have fans, it would be great!

"When we played there before we had good fan numbers. Hopefully in the near future we can see fans return.”

It’s been a solid start for the Royals striker since her return on the opening day at Arsenal in a disappointing 6-1 defeat before scoring in her first two WSL starts of the season as the Royals defeated both Aston Villa and West Ham.

“Arsenal are never easy to face, having a team like that straight up came a bit too early as a collective.

"There have been a few of us returning from injuries, we had to find our feet, it was a tough start.

"We went into Aston Villa and showed we had progressed. We were really happy with that. It helped to realise where we were at and what we needed to work on’’.

The Royals have had differing results at the Madejski since their return, recording two wins, a draw and a loss in the first four games in all competitions.

In the last game before the international break, they drew 1-1 with Manchester City, one of the favourites to challenge for the league title.

Previously Reading have struggled at Madejski and Bruton believes that the side can change their fortunes quickly.

“Whenever we’ve played at Madejski before we’ve found it difficult. It’s a big pitch like Adams Park was but coming into this year we have new faces, it’s becoming more of a home now.

“We have been used to Adams Park and now we’re adjusting to the new surroundings. A point from Man City, one of the best teams in the league is a fantastic way of proving that.”

Manchester City are one of the WSL sides that have turned to bringing overseas superstars of the game to England.

World Cup winners Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis have joined their ranks.

“When you play against big name teams and players you look to combat them. The philosophy at Reading is to defend first, we want as many clean sheets as possible and we work off of that.

"We are a possession-based side and with our willingness and aggression we can cause these sides problems.”

On the big names coming to England, Bruton added: “We are so happy as players from other clubs to see players like Mewis and Lavelle coming in to strengthen the league. It was a great experience to play against them.

“We’ve brought in top quality players ourselves over the years domestically, who have come from playing at the highest levels.

"We’ve strengthened and the new signings have been fantastic. Jess [Fishlock] knows English football and has helped us hugely.”

Bruton has previously been capped by England and after 16 months out faces a challenge to get herself back on the radar.

“Everyone wants to play for their country, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. I’ve had 16 months out and I’m working to get back to my best.

"I need as many games under my belt at club level before considering anything going forward.

"Reading is my sole focus at the moment.”

Reading are next in action when they face their second trip to West Ham United this season on Wednesday.

Bruton was the hero last time out as she netted in a 1-0 WSL victory, this time it’s Continental Cup action.

“We’re really looking forward to it. Our main goal is to get as far as possible, even looking to win it!

“The club deserves a trophy and this is a perfect opportunity for that.

“We’ve played West Ham already and we know them, they know us.

"It’ll be a tough game regardless with both sides having players that can change the game.

"We had an amazing point from Man City last time out and want to take this confidence forward.”