Woodgate, 31, came off the bench to make a 35-minute appearance in Spurs' win at the San Siro after Vedran Corluka had to come off after being pole-axed by Matthieu Flamini's horrific two-footed lunge.
Woodgate picked up his groin problem in Tottenham's 9-1 win over Wigan in November 2009 and it was feared that the injury-plagued defender would never recover. The former Real Madrid man admits his road to recover has been long and hard but he is now looking forward to getting back to his best.
"It was a great feeling to get back,'' Woodgate said. "There is nothing worse than when you can't play football. Watching games is painful when you're injured but you try to spur the lads on and give them all the confidence they need.
"A lot of people doubted whether I'd be able to get back but you have to show determination to not let bad times get you down and you have to just keep going.''
Woodgate, who turned down a loan move to Wolves last month, must now set about proving to Harry Redknapp that he deserves an extension his contract when it expires at the end of the season.
The Spurs boss was delighted with Woodgate's performance in Milan, especially given that the centre-half has only played one full reserve match since his return to training in January.
"I took a chance with putting Jonathan Woodgate on - he hasn't kicked a ball, he has had just one full game against a not-very-good QPR team,'' Redknapp said. "I just felt his experience would help us. It was a case of having someone in the right place at the right time and I thought he was good at that.''
Woodgate always believed that Spurs would come out on top against Milan and believes that Peter Crouch's second-half winner will give the squad more confidence in the second leg in three weeks' time.
"It was a great night for the club,'' he said. "It was a 1-0 victory over AC Milan. They are one of the giants of European football, but I thought coming here we could beat them. I said to the lads in the changing room before that they were there for the taking. Everyone is full of confidence and this will only give us more now.''