On-loan defender Tommie Hoban today revealed his injury hell was made even worse because he was unable to hold his newborn son for six weeks.
The Watford stopper was ruled out for five months following surgery on a shoulder injury sustained while scoring in the 1-1 draw at Hibs on August 25.
Hoban delayed the procedure for a week until partner Christina gave birth to their first-born child, son Finley.
Being sidelined from football action was bad enough for Hoban, but the frustration of the shoulder injury was intensified as the 25-year-old, on loan until the end of the season, was unable to hold his baby boy following surgery.
Now fully fit, Hoban made his welcome return when introduced as a substitute for Scott McKenna in the 0-0 draw with Kilmarnock.
Aberdeen face a sweat on the fitness of Scotland international McKenna, who has undergone a scan on a hamstring injury.
McKenna is set to miss tonight’s Scottish Cup fourth round replay at Stenhousemuir and Hoban is ready to step in from the start if required at Ochilview.
He said: “It was a very frustrating few months off the pitch but at the same time my partner and I welcomed our first baby into the world, which was incredible.
“It was a whirlwind few months.
“It was a stressful time with the injury but it (having a baby son) put everything in perspective and makes you realise there is more to life than football.
“That definitely helped take my mind off things and kept me busy as well for the last few months. It has been amazing.
“It was very tough first six weeks for Christina as I couldn’t hold the baby and was in a lot of pain myself. She was having to do all the nappies for a while but I am making up for it now.”
It was another bitter injury blow for the defender, who had last season wiped out following knee surgery having ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in training with Watford.
Frustratingly, it was also his second surgery on the same shoulder having gone under the knife in November 2016 after suffering a dislocation during training while on loan at Blackburn Rovers.
He is determined to finally put his injury woes behind him and make an impact with Aberdeen.
Hoban said: “I was extremely disappointed to pick up another injury so soon after missing the whole of last season with a bad knee injury.
“I was just getting settled up here at Aberdeen when that injury happened.
“Now I am back fit and desperate to get playing and have a good second half of the season.
“Quite early on (at Hibs in August) I realised something wasn’t right as I felt my shoulder go in and out.
“I have done that before. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be as bad as last time.
“However, I had the scan about a week later and it showed there was quite bad damage there and the shoulder was unstable.
“Unfortunately I had to be operated on again.
“All the ligaments that hold the shoulder in place were all torn.
“It was very loose and kept popping in and out.
“Obviously if I am playing and grabbing people and falling over it is not going to be ideal so the surgery had to be done.
“It is the second time I have had shoulder surgery. I did the same shoulder a couple of years back.
“It was very frustrating because after the last surgery I was hoping that would be the end of that.
“It was an unlucky fall. It could have happened to the other shoulder and could have happened to anyone.
“I am just trying to forget about it and move on.”
Hoban returned to parent club Watford to undergo his rehabilitation from surgery.
However, he met up with his Aberdeen team-mates earlier this season to cheer them on at Hampden from the stands in the Betfred Cup final (1-0 loss to Celtic) and semi-final (1-0 defeat of Rangers). With McKenna set to be ruled out tonight, and potentially for longer, Hoban is ready to step in to help the bid to return to Hampden.
He said: “It was great to get back out there (against Kilmarnock) but unlucky that Scott picked up that injury.
“I have only been back a couple of weeks and match fitness will come in time, but I will only get that by playing games.
“If I am needed I will be ready to go in and play.”
Defender Hoban featured just twice for the Dons, starting both Europa League ties against Premier League Burnley, before sustaining the shoulder injury.
During his time at Watford he faced FA Cup away ties against giants Chelsea (started 3-0 loss at Stamford Bridge, 2015) and Manchester City (unused substitute in 4-2 fourth round defeat 2014).
Ochilview tonight is light years from Stamford Bridge or the Etihad Stadium, but he will treat this tie with the same gravity.
He said: “There were a few years at Watford where we drew Manchester City twice and Chelsea once in the FA Cup.
“We had a few tough draws.
“Stenhousemuir is not playing at the Etihad but I am sure it will still be a tough game. Every game has its challenges but we will hopefully get the victory.
“Stenhousemuir showed in the last game that they are not going to be a walkover at all.
“They might be struggling in their own league but in the cup anything can happen.
“They pulled off a great result against us but everyone will learn from that and be even more up for it in the replay. I am confident we can get a good result.”
Another unwanted by-product of the 1-1 draw at Pittodrie is the Dons will have to play on an artificial surface at Ochilview.
Defender Mark Reynolds, also returning from long-term injury following knee surgery in July, will not be risked on Stenhousemuir’s pitch.
“It is never ideal playing on that kind of surface as a lot of people have issues with knees and ankles,” said Hoban.
“Those kind of surfaces are never going to be good for that but there are no excuses.
“No matter what the surface we should be good enough to beat them on the night.”