Tom Grivosti insists Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell was the driving force in his belief he would return from a 12-month injury absence.
English defender Grivosti suffered a freak foot injury in a 4-0 defeat to Rangers on October 30 last year when he caught the boot of striker Alfredo Morelos as he went to clear the ball.
The diagnosis showed a ruptured ligament between toe bones, with several attempts to return thwarted by setbacks.
Having been out of contract during lockdown, Grivosti was handed a new deal by the Staggies while still injured, but returned to fitness earlier this month.
Grivosti made his first appearance in 352 days as a substitute in the 0-0 draw with Hibernian on October 17, before returning to the starting line-up in last weekend’s 4-0 loss to Motherwell.
The 21-year-old admits he feared for his future, but insists Kettlewell was quick to reassure him there would be a place for him at Victoria Park.
Grivosti said: “It was definitely the toughest time of my career over the last year and I was at the stage of thinking about whether I’d get back and, if I did, would I get back the same?
“But I always had belief in myself than I could put the work in and get back to a level.
“The manager helped me massively because he kept in contact, telling me he has belief in me and what I can do for the club.
“When you have the confidence of the manager like that, knowing you’re still wanted even though you’ve been out for so long, that’s what gets you through.
“It does enter your mind that they might not want you any more because you’re not playing, but he made it clear that wasn’t the case.
“He never let me think like that so that was a huge thing in helping me get through it.
“It was brilliant to get back and starting a game again.”
Grivosti is now keen to make up for lost time having made eight appearances in his first Premiership campaign prior to his injury last term.
The former Bolton Wanderers player added: “I think I had showed before my injury that I can play at this level. I had some good games.
“My season got cut short, but that gave me the drive to come back and prove myself again.
“That’s what I need to do in the next few weeks, stay in the team, perform well and show everyone I can play at this level.
“I just need games under my belt now to get back to match fitness and try to improve.
“I still need to get to where I need to be fitness-wise, but that will come with games.”
Grivosti will face a difficult test if he is selected for County’s trip to Dundee United today in the form of Scotland international Lawrence Shankland.
Grivosti’s senior debut came as a substitute in a 2-1 victory over an Ayr United side which included Shankland in October 2018, and he has continued to be impressed by the former Aberdeen attacker.
Grivosti added: “It was a tough debut, but we won the game.
“He’s a very good player who has done really well for himself and you knew he would be able to make the step up to play in the Premiership.
“With the amount of goals he scored he was always going to get there, it’s not a surprise.
“You can never say whether someone will go on to play for their country, but you could tell at Ayr he was a really good player.
“He’s just a finisher, he gets into the right positions and it all comes naturally, so we will have to watch him closely.”