Ryan Donaldson reflects on a frustrating first season back at Hartlepool United
Hartlepool United's Ryan Donaldson admits his first season back at Victoria Park has been a frustrating one.
But, having endured more than six months out and two operations, he is hopeful that his ankle woes are behind him.
"Frustrating has been the word for this season," said Donaldson, who has one year left on his Pools deal.
"I have had to have two operations. I am cool with injuries, I understand they are part of the game.
"But it was a weird one this time because it was quite innocuous and I have been quite lucky over my career with injuries – I’ve not had a serious one and then ended up having three operations in the last two years.
"Hopefully that’s the end of them now because it is hard coming in to training and having to watch the other lads without being able to join in.
"You have to stay focused and keep your head on what you’re doing to just grind it out."
Donaldson was restricted to just 20 appearances for Pools last season, 14 of which were starts.
Having been one of the side's more consistent performers under Craig Harrison in the opening few weeks of 2017/18 his campaign came to a sudden halt on October 3, when an ankle problem forced him off against Barrow after just 29 minutes.
And little do he know then, but he would not kick a ball again until April.
During that time Pools went from a side with visions on gatecrashing the top seven to fighting for their lives at the bottom end of the division, under a new manager in Matthew Bates.
The 27-year-old admits it was frustrating watching the players struggle, and being able to do little about it.
"I have been fortunate with the clubs that I have been at in that they’ve always been looking up rather than down," said the former Newcastle United trainee.
"It’s always good to leave a club in a better position than when you signed – that’s been the case at the last two clubs I have signed for.
"That was one of the big reasons I joined Pools – because I want to be a part in taking the club back in to the Football League."
This, of course, is not the first time Donaldson has donned the famous blue and white.
Back in January 2011 the then teenager was loaned to the Vic from St James's Park. He made 12 appearances that year.
Reflecting back on his first spell at the club, he admits it was a baptism of fire.
Speaking to the club website, Donaldson said: "My loan at Pools in 2011 was really hard.
"I remember playing in a friendly for Newcastle against Pools and I played up front.
"After the game Mick Wadsworth asked me if I fancied coming down to Pools for a month to play as a striker because there were some injuries.
"I knew it would be tough but playing up front on your own in League One as a young kid was a real eye-opener.
"I came up against the likes of Southampton, Brentford and Charlton – and I hadn’t really played up front a lot in the years before that so it was really hard.
"We had a good team with the likes of Ritchie Humphreys, Sam Collins, Sweens (Anthony Sweeney) and James Brown and I did enjoy it but the situation was really testing for me at that age."