Aberdeen defender Tommie Hoban believes his new-found appreciation of fitness and football can help drive him on.
Hoban feared his career was over amid an 18-month absence from the game during which his Watford contract expired.
But Aberdeen gave him the facilities to finish his rehab from the knee injury which ended his loan spell at the club last year and then a short-term deal to get him back playing.
Hoban quickly proved his fitness and signed an extended contract until the end of the season during the international break.
And the 26-year-old is determined to grasp his opportunity after a horrendous run of major injuries.
“When it is almost taken away from you… there were times last season when I wondered if I would be able to come back,” he said.
“Being in the condition I am now, feeling good, feeling fit again, it makes you appreciate it 10 times more than before. I wish I had appreciated it the way I do now back when I was younger.
“The last four or five years have been tough and I’m feeling the fittest I have felt for quite some time now, but there is more to come.
“I am excited coming in every day and loving just feeling like a normal player again. I hope that will continue for the rest of the season and the rest of my career to come.”
Ahead of Saturday’s Scottish Premiership match with Dundee United at Tannadice, Hoban added: “Spending that amount of time on the sidelines gives you a lot of time to think. Even though I wasn’t playing I was still thinking about football a lot.
“In some ways I probably have improved as a player. I studied the game, watched a lot of football, that’s all you can do when you’re injured.”
The centre-back is determined to repay Aberdeen and manager Derek McInnes for giving him the platform to rebuild his career.
“The club have been fantastic with me and always shown their support,” he said.
“The manager was great when I was injured, now and then he would drop me a message to see how I was getting on.
“I am so grateful Aberdeen gave me the chance to come back up here, being out of the game for that long it’s very easy just to get sort of passed by, people move on quickly in football and people forget quite easily.
“I will never forget the chance they have given me and I am hoping I can keep putting in good performances to repay them.”
Hoban would not rule out making his stay an even longer one but he has learned not to look too far ahead.
“I have only just signed this deal and I am taking it one game at a time to try and enjoy my football but I have always said I really enjoy it up here, my family really enjoy it up here,” he said.
“My missus and two kids, a great place to bring up a young family, a great place to live our lives, very different to what we are used to back in London.
“I definitely can see myself extending my deal here if that was a possibility come the end of the season but I am just focused on taking it one game at a time and doing the best I can on the pitch.”
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