Michael Woods questioned whether he would ever play football again after suffering the third major injury of his career.
But thanks to the devoted physio team and fans at Hartlepool United - who visited him in hospital the night he got injured - Woods is back fit and looking to shine.
The 25-year-old midfielder dislocated his ankle and fractured his fibula in a league game against Wimbledon back in February - ruling him out of action for six months.
But the tough-tackling schemer, who has previously injured his knee and dislocated his ankle, made a speedy recovery and made his first start in the defeat to Gateshead.
“It is very difficult mentally and physically when you get a serious injury,” Woods told SportMail.
“You question yourself at times and this was the third major injury of my career.
You question yourself at times and this was my third major injury of my career.Michael Woods
“You are sat there in hospital, talking to your family etc, wondering if you can go through it all again.
“But those are the times when you need people around you, your friends, family, teammates and medical staff - who have all been brilliant.
“The Saturday night I was in, we even had Pools fans turning up to the hospital!
“That just goes to show the faith they put in you and that was so touching. Being in hospital and having a nurse wake you to tell you fans had been to see me, was great, but I was knocked out [at the time].
“That was such an honour,” added Woods, whose return is a month ahead of schedule.
The former Leeds United and Chelsea youth was well looked after during his rehabilitation, led by the club’s head physio Ian Gallagher, or Buster.
“I can’t thank them all enough for the amount of time they have put in with me,” added Woods.
“Even on their days off when I had hospital appointments or scans two or three hours away from their houses they were there – they didn’t have to come to those but they did even though it was only for half an hour.
“They were on the phone all the time too – if my mum has even worrying about me she’s been able to pick up the phone and check with someone that I’m going to be alright!
“Just the time and effort they put in – Buster is superb and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without him and his staff.
“The surgeon told me at the time that I would be back training just as the season started so to be in with a chance of being fit for selection for the first game is a huge bonus.
“It’s been the toughest pre-season I’ve ever done and I have managed to do all of it so I am hopeful that I will be ready for selection.”
Woods has wasted no time throwing himself into challenges since returning - and he has no plans to change his style of play.
“Tackling is part of my game and if you take that out I would be half the player,” said Woods.
“I will have to keep doing it so grit your teeth and get on with it!”