Charlie Colkett says he has worked harder than ever before to return to fitness, and is now relishing the challenge of forcing his way into the Crewe Alexandra team.
The midfielder, who arrived at Mornflake Stadium in the summer, suffered a serious hamstring injury in just his second appearance for the club, in August.
Now, after months of rehab work, the 26-year-old is back in the frame after coming off the bench in the FA Cup win over Leyton Orient.
Colkett said: “It’s been tough, around three months. Physically and mentally, the first month was the hardest. I’ve never worked so hard for something in my life, there have been a lot of gruelling hours.
“I feel like I’ve been in the trenches for three months but everyone has been great here, and if anything, I’m stronger than I was before.
“It feels a long time coming but I’m a little bit ahead of schedule. We haven’t rushed it, but I’m really just glad to be back and I’m ready to go.
“It felt amazing to be on the pitch when we won the game (against Orient).
"I want to make the impact I know I can make, and give the group a lift, and help us climb the table. I’m really excited.”
Colkett, who came through the ranks at Chelsea and has played for the likes of Swindon, Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham, as well as abroad, also got some minutes under his belt for the Under-21s, in a 2-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday.
His focus is now on the visit of Colchester United in League Two this weekend (Saturday, 3pm).
He added: “It’s so important for me to get minutes, I’ll take any I can get.
"When you’ve been out for so long, even though you’ve been training extremely hard, you need to build up that match sharpness so you can get back to your best form. I’m sure that will come quickly.
“It’s hard to win any football game, no matter what league you’re in, but it’s on us. We don’t focus on the table; we focus on our performances.
"The table will take care of itself; we’ll just go for the three points every time.”