Aberdeen defender Tommie Hoban is determined to make the most of his second chance in football after fearing he would never play again.
The 26-year-old has been a standout for the Reds since returning to the club on a short-term deal until January.
His contribution at the heart of the Dons defence was rewarded last week with an extension until the end of the season.
It is a major step forward for the former Republic of Ireland under-21 international who feared he would be forced to take early retirement from the game as he struggled to battle back from a second cruciate ligament injury.
Hoban suffered the injury while on loan at Aberdeen from Watford during the 2018-19 season and spent a year without a club before returning to the Dons in the summer.
He said: “Most players return after around nine months from the injury I had, but I was seven months in and still in a lot of pain. I had surgery on the knee, which thankfully did help.
“It solved the problem, but at seven months I felt like I was going around in circles. There were moments when you think, ‘is it ever going to get better?’
“I knew from previous injuries that your body eventually sorts itself out.
“I kept that belief and it’s so important not to doubt yourself, you need to believe you are going to get back. I kept focused, worked hard every day and eventually it paid dividends.
“I had a second child during it and you start to panic, so I was happy to get back playing when I did.
“There were days when I started to think about another career for after football and that’s something we all need to think about at some stage.
“The last year has benefited me in some ways as it forced me to think about that as I’ve started to make plans, not serious plans, but I’m looking at life after football.”
Hoban was forced to dip into his savings to fund his rehabilitation during his year without a club, but believes it was worth the investment.
He said: “I was fortunate to be in a position to fund it, but it was difficult. It’s something I’ve always been interested in as my dad’s a financial adviser.
“He’s always banging on to me about the importance of saving and that’s helped me throughout my career so far. Thankfully I was able to dip into that as that’s what it’s there for at the end of the day.
“It was quite a bit of money at the time, but in the long run I hope it will be worth it.
“When you are at a club you have guidance from the club and the doctors and physios help you make decisions. I had to arrange everything myself, which was new to me – when you’re at a football club, everything is done for you.
“I had to make the decisions as I looked at it as my last shot to get back, so I made sure everything was done properly but it was challenging.
“I tried to stay as positive as I could and I was lucky to have a great support network around me like my family. There were days where it was really hard, I’m just enjoying being fit again.”
And Hoban, ahead of today’s trip to Tannadice to face Dundee United, says he is delighted to commit his immediate future to the club with manager Derek McInnes having already spoken about the possibility of another extension further down the line.
He added: “I’m very happy to have signed on for the rest of the season. It’s something I’ve wanted to happen and the club had to make sure I was fully fit.
“I needed to know that myself, but I’m playing games and feeling good, so hopefully can make it a special season.
“The club have been fantastic with me in the process of getting fit, they gave me the option to come back and here and help with my rehab as it was obviously difficult getting back. Once I was fit, the offer was to come back, train and regain my fitness and that was something I jumped at.
“I’m delighted the club have given me the opportunity and I want to pay them back.
“I want to get minutes on the pitch and help Aberdeen to have a successful season, which I’m confident we can have.”