Aberdeen winger Matty Kennedy has lifted the lid on his injury hell, revealing he suffered two stress fractures to his back.
Kennedy endured months of agony until the fractures were finally diagnosed.
Then came the crushing confirmation he had to do nothing for 12 weeks to help the healing process.
It was the start of a long battle which was not just tough physically, but also mentally.
The 27-year-old admits there were times during the lengthy rehabilitation where he feared he would never return to action.
Support from his family, friends, team-mates and the Dons’ management got him through the darkest times.
Introduced as a substitute in the 1-0 loss at St Mirren earlier this month it was the first time he had played since last May.
Kennedy said: “It was difficult for me to find out I had two stress fractures in my back.
“I was sent home for 12 weeks to recover and wasn’t able to do anything during that time.
“I went down the road and spent time with my family.
“It’s difficult to watch the games when you’re going through a bad spell and not being able to help the team or the manager.
“Being injured for that length of time is something footballers hate.
“I’m in good spirit to be back on the pitch, back in Aberdeen and back with the boys.
“Some of my best mates are in the team.
“I’m enjoying football. Luckily enough the gaffer has put me on the pitch after doing well in training.”
Some relief at hearing difficult news
Northern Ireland international Kennedy had been suffering with back pain throughout pre-season last summer.
When the diagnosis of a double back fracture eventually arrived he admits there was almost a sense of relief.
At least the uncertainty was over and he knew what he was fighting.
He said: “The hard part was not knowing what it was.
“Trying to push through and train, it was proper sore.
“That was the concern – why is this not getting better?
“The news (on the double fracture) was difficult to hear but I was glad because I was going through so much pain with it.
“To find out what it was, I was happy with that.”
Shock at time scale for rehabilitation
The diagnosis was quickly followed by the devastating news at how long the rehabilitation would take.
Kennedy, who made 39 appearances last season, said: “I thought it might be six weeks.
“You think: what’s six weeks?
“Most of them are about that long.
“Then I found out how long I needed to be off and that was a shock. That was difficult.
“That was definitely the most difficult thing to go through – it wasn’t nice at all, I am not going to lie.
“It was horrible. But I’ve come through it.
“I just stayed positive like you need to do, stuck to it, worked hard with the physios and spoke to the manager.
“He’d give me phone calls and make sure I was alright.
“I just kept my head down and worked on my rehab with the physios.”
You think ‘Is there a way back?’
Prior to his injury hell Kennedy last featured for the Dons when coming on as a substitute in the 1-0 loss to Hibs on May 12.
In the early days of his rehabilitation Kennedy was unable to walk more than a mile.
At times you think ‘Is there any way back?’.
“With injuries for every footballer it’s mentally tough.
“My family saw what I was going through.
“Some people outside of football don’t realise what a horrible time it can be.”
Aberdeen winger Matty Kennedy
That inactivity for a professional athlete was bad enough.
Not only that but he also had to watch players signed in his position come in during the summer.
He said: “It’s very difficult.
“I’ve never had an injury which has kept me out for more than four weeks.
“So be told that and then have to do another six weeks of rehab after was tough.
“When I went home, I couldn’t do anything.
“You can’t train or look after your body so maybe you put a wee bit of weight on. I like to keep myself fit.
“The gaffer signs boys in your position, they’ve come in and done well.
“When you’re sitting in the house and can’t go on more than a one-mile walk, it’s difficult.
“At times you think ‘Is there any way back?’.
“With injuries for every footballer it’s mentally tough.
“My family saw what I was going through. Some people outside of football don’t realise what a horrible time it can be.”
Kennedy never wanted to leave Dons
St Mirren were keen on taking Kennedy in on loan in August but the move never happened.
The winger admits he had “conversations to go”.
Yet Kennedy says he never wanted to leave Aberdeen and is glad he is still at the club.
Contracted to the Dons until summer 2023 he insists he wants to star for Glass who has “been brilliant with me”.
On the potential loan move, he said: “It was more to do with my back problem.
“We couldn’t get to the bottom of it.
“I came back for pre-season and I felt like I was flying.
“Yet it got to the point though when I couldn’t train as my back was too sore.
“We didn’t know what it was though.
“So I’d spend ten days with the physio, then come back into training for one day, couldn’t do what I wanted to do – then be out for another ten.
“I couldn’t dribble fast with the ball and I couldn’t take people on.
“I think it got to a point where people thought ‘he’s maybe not the player he was’.
“We started to play the European games and other teams saw that I wasn’t in the team, but nobody knew I was injured.
“So teams came in for me on loan.
“It was a weird situation because the manager and I get on well – he’s been brilliant with me.
“I never ever wanted to leave, I want to stay here and I want to play.
“But at the end of the day I want to play games.
“So it got to that difficult stage where I wasn’t playing and I was injured.
“I had conversations to go.
“It was a possibility. But it never happened, and I’m glad I’m at Aberdeen.”
The long road back to recovery
Kennedy came on as a second half substitute in the 2-1 loss at Livingston at the weekend and set up the Dons goal within a minute of his introduction.
He admits there were dark times when there seemed no way back.
Kennedy battled through those dark days and the pain, driven by the desire to play again.
That will-power paid off and now he is confident he will get back to his best.
He said: “When I finished my rehab and went into training my back was still a bit a sore.
“I’d been back in training for a few days and that moment I thought: am I ever going to recover from this?
“I stuck at it, pushed through training and gradually it got to a stage where I could deal with it.
“And now it has gradually got to a point where it is easier and easier.
“I had a feeling that I can get back to my best, I can get fit.
“There is no better feeling to be honest.
“I don’t know exactly what point it was but in the last two or three weeks that I felt like I can actually get back.”
Relishing the chance to face Celtic
Kennedy is available for selection for Wednesday’s home clash against Premiership leaders Celtic.
He is relishing the challenge of facing the in form Hoops.
He said: “These are the games as a footballer you want to play in.
“You want to play in the big games.
“It will be a difficult game but there is no better test than Celtic to test yourself and see how good a player you actually are.
“There’s no better feeling than winning against Celtic.
“I think every lad has been bang on it at training today and yesterday so we just need to be positive.”