Tom Dele-Bashiru has described the anterior cruciate ligament injury that kept him out of action for almost all of Watford's Championship season as the hardest moment of his life, as his time out on loan draws to a close.

The midfielder looked to have made himself an important part of then head coach Vladimir Ivic's squad, with his involvement against Luton Town and Reading, where he has been playing on loan this season, an indication that he was perhaps a key part of the Serbian's plans.

However, the ACL damage he sustained at the Madejski stadium just four games in was severe enough to keep him sidelined for the remainder of the campaign, allowing others to play their way into contention in his absence.

Speaking to the Watford Observer Dele-Bashiru said it took a while for him to once again play unhindered by the fear of a recurrence, but that he is now performing without apprehension.

"It was very difficult, definitely the hardest moment of my life," he said. "I think it was more about the timing. I was just getting into the team and trying to show everybody what I can do, because I've been at Watford I think three years now and the fans haven't really seen much of me, so obviously I was really keen to show them what I can do, but then I got the injury.

"I just worked hard to get back and I'm back now and I'm feeling fit, just trying to improve every day.

"When you come back from being out injured, it's a bit difficult and you need to get back up to speed with it again.

"At the start of the season, I was cautious about the injury, but now everything feels really good. I feel nice and strong, so I don't really have much fear or apprehension anymore."

The setback has essentially put the 22-year-old a year behind in his development, with the season of Championship football experience he now has under his belt something he should have acquired while he was instead working on rehabilitation with physiotherapists.

Nevertheless, Dele-Bashiru remains pragmatic about his need to drop down a division in search of development.

Though he could have stayed at Watford this season, and felt he was ready to play in the top flight, he thought it would be more beneficial to spend time on the pitch at Reading than on the bench at Vicarage Road.

"To be honest, I did want to push for my place but in the back of my mind, I also knew that a loan would probably be the best option because I need regular game time," he said. "Coming back off an ACL injury, another season sitting on the bench wasn't going to do me much good, so I needed to go out there and go and play because I needed as many minutes as I could get under my belt.

"I think I'm capable of performing in the Premier League, I just obviously needed the experience to play here in the Championship and learn about men's football as I've not really played many seasons of men's football yet. Even though the season hasn't been a great season because of the position that we're in, I've played with very good players week in week out, training with good managers and learning new things every day. So I've definitely gained valuable experience."

That experience has been both mental and physical for Dele-Bashiru, who has had his own taste of a relegation scuffle away from the one his parent club is currently embroiled in.

He believes his time in Berkshire has improved his understanding of the game both on and off the pitch.

"In the Championship, I think you don't really have a lot of time on the ball in midfield, so you obviously need to make quicker decisions and already have an idea of what you're going to do before you get the ball," he said. "It definitely has improved my quick thinking and decision making.

"The mental side is equally as important, especially being in a relegation battle. You're not only fighting for your career, but for other people around the club who will definitely be affected if the club was to go down.

"You're playing for yourself, playing for your family and also definitely playing for the fans and the other people involved in the club."

While it remains to be seen whether or not he will get his chance at Watford again next season, for now he is focused on Reading's battle to avoid a drop into League One.

However, the dream scenario for Dele-Bashiru is a return to Vicarage Road for an opportunity to play top flight football with Watford.

"It's in the back of my mind what's going to happen next season," he said. "But I'm focused on helping Reading stay up in the Championship. So after that, then we can start talking about next season.

"I hope Watford stay up in the Premier League, and I can then go there and showcase what I can do."