FULLY-FIT Neil Austin is looking forward to putting a frustrating few months behind him when he returns to pre-season training in a fortnight.
The 31-year-old last week signed a new contract at Hartlepool United committing his future to the club.
It came as a welcome relief to the Yorkshireman who missed a large chunk of last season after suffering a troublesome toe injury at the start of February while making a block during the goalless draw with Scunthorpe United.
Pools went down every avenue possible in a bid to find a cure for the problem including X-rays, assessments and even having orthotics fitted.
But they all failed to improve Austin’s condition and in the end there was no other option but for him to go under the surgeon’s knife in order to knit together the bone in his big toe.
Thankfully, the surgery was a success and Austin is now fully-fit and ready to make an impression in pre-season.
The players return to their Maiden Castle base in Durham on Tuesday, July 1.
Austin told SportMail: “I am fully fit now and back up to full speed.
“It has felt like a really long time off for me, especially missing the last three months of the season and having that extended stay on the sidelines. But I think if nothing else it just makes you more hungry to come back and do well.
“The other lads may be ready to come back into pre-season training now after the summer holidays but I have been ready for the past couple of months to be honest - I am chomping at the bit.
“To get the injury when I did was really frustrating because, at the time, we were doing quite well and were looking towards the play-offs.
“But then I never recovered from the injury and ended up missing the rest of the season.
“Thankfully the operation has cleared up the problem and I am back up to full speed.
“The bone in the big toe needed knitting together and while a toe injury may not sound much, you obviously use your toes to sprint and jump.
“It has been a deeply frustrating few months but I am looking to put it behind me now and I am raring to go.”