New Aberdeen signing Tommie Hoban today admitted he feared his career could be over just three months ago.
The defender was battling to recover from a serious knee injury that wiped out a year-and-a-half of his career.
That cruciate ligament injury was suffered while on loan at Aberdeen from then Premier League Watford in February 2019.
Offered a lifeline by the Dons having proved his fitness, Hoban is determined to make the most of this opportunity.
Signed on a short-term deal until January the 26-year-old made his debut when starting in the 1-0 defeat of St Johnstone.
He hopes it is the first step to putting his injury woes firmly behind him.
Hoban said: “About three months ago I had no idea if I was even going to get back.
“I didn’t have too much opportunities and I had been out for so long.
“I started to wonder if there was going to be something for me to come back to.
“I still wasn’t feeling great fitness wise but Aberdeen gave me the opportunity to come up here.
“I can’t thank them enough for that.
“I am fit now and delighted to be back out on the pitch and help Aberdeen get three points.”
Hoban had to undergo surgery on the knee injury suffered in a 2-2 draw with St Mirren at Pittodrie last February.
Later that summer Watford released him.
As the injury was suffered on loan at Aberdeen, boss Derek McInnes believed he had a duty of care to help Hoban’s get back to fitness.
He trained with the Dons for three weeks to prove his fitness before penning a short-term contract.
Hoban said: “I was definitely starting to think about other options post football in terms of careers.
“There were a few things I was thinking of studying.
“That is something we are all going to have to face at some stage.
“In some ways I actually think it has helped me to grow as a person and it has prepared me a little to face up to the time when football is over.
“I am hoping it doesn’t end just yet.
“I was delighted to get out there against St Johnstone and hopefully I can really kick on this time, stay injury free and have a great season.”
Hoban has suffered three horrendous years blighted by injury.
The defender was ruled out for the whole of the 2017-18 season, having suffered a cruciate ligament injury during pre-season training with Watford in summer 2017.
Having impressed on loan at Aberdeen, he then suffered a dislocated shoulder at Easter Road in late August 2018 that ruled him out for five months.
On his return from that injury he played just six games before suffering damage to the anterior cruciate ligament.
Thankfully it was not the same knee injured in 2017. However, he still lost 18 months of his career.
After so long out, he admits to butterflies for his return at St Johnstone.
He said: “I was nervous but at the same time I was excited.
“Three months ago I literally had no idea if I would come back playing.
“I just want to enjoy it as much as I can and that is what I am going to do for every game now.
“Once you have that feeling that it could possibly be over it does make you appreciate the opportunity I have got.”
Victory at St Johnstone delivered Aberdeen’s first points of the season.
Following the 1-0 opening day loss to Rangers, the subsequent three games were postponed due to coronavirus protocol breaches by eight Aberdeen players and Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli.
Eight Aberdeen players broke Covid-19 guidance by visiting a busy city centre bar after that loss to Rangers.
Two subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 and had to quarantine, while the other six had to self isolate for 14 days.
Hoban believes securing a victory after such a chaotic two weeks is testament to the character of the squad.
He said: “It has been a very tough couple of weeks for the whole squad as we didn’t have that many players in training.
“A lot of the young boys trained which is good for them.
“It was very challenging circumstances going into the game but it shows the character and attitude we have within the squad.
“We stayed focused and kept our heads down. Let everyone say what they want but we will go out and perform on the pitch.
“You have to remember none of us have played a game in three weeks and they have played more games than us.”
St Johnstone was the first of four games in 11 days for the Dons who also face NSI Runavik of Faroe Islands in the Europa League on Thursday.
Sandwiched between the Euro tie at Pittodrie is a home league clash with Livingston tomorrow, before a trip to Hibs the following Sunday.
Hoban insists the Dons have targeted a maximum return.
He said: “Our season started properly at St Johnstone and our goal is to get nine points going into the international break.
“We have three now.
“Livingston will be a tough game as every team brings different challenges.
“However, our squad is good enough to beat most teams in this league.
“If we play well we are confident we can get the three points.”