Ross County defender Steven Saunders is determined to consign his injury problems to history after finally returning to action in last weekend’s 2-2 draw against former club Motherwell.
Saunders has been out since the start of the season with an ankle injury, with Saturday’s match his first start since the 2-1 derby win against Caley Thistle on New Year’s day.
The 23-year-old has experienced tough luck with injuries, having also been sidelined for several months with an Achilies injury during his time with the Steelmen.
Saunders, who has one cap for Scotland, feared for his future when Jim McIntyre replaced Derek Adams as manager in September.
But he is grateful for McIntyre’s support during his recovery, and is determined to prove himself to the former Dunfermline and Queen of the South manager.
Saunders said: “The start of the season wasn’t great for me as I rolled my ankle. I was told I needed an operation, but I went to see a specialist in Edinburgh and he said if I did proper rehab I’d be all right. That was 10 weeks I was out.
“We had the change of manager and the first thing he saw was me lying on the physio’s bench, so it wasn’t really a great start for me.
“It was a concern, because I’d never met Jim McIntyre before. I didn’t know if he was going to take to me, what his style of football was or what he wanted to do with me.
“We spoke and he said if I got myself fit I would get a chance to prove myself.
“He had a concern about me as in the last couple of years I haven’t played a whole lot of football in consecutive games.
“He did say he was going to take his time with me but it has been frustrating.
“But I understood where he was coming from. He spoke of making sure I was fit for a run of games, not just one or two and then out for five weeks again.
“I came back and trained, played a few reserve games and I trained well, so it was nice to get a chance on Saturday and prove I’m fit.”
With Saunders’ contract up in the summer, the defender has his sights on keeping his place for the rest of the season.
But he knows performances must improve from the Motherwell game, and added: “I know I wasn’t brilliant on Saturday, but it was my first game in almost a year starting for the first team.
“So now I’m ready to kick on and if I’m asked to play on Saturday I’ll up my game again.
“There’s nothing like playing in the first team. You can play as many reserve games as you like, but when you’re playing people who are playing for their livelihood as well, it’s a totally different level.
“For me, it’s about consistency. Now I’ve played my first game I want to play from now until the last game of the season. That is what I’m here for.”