Defender Tommie Hoban aims to win a contract extension with Aberdeen to the end of the season and beyond after returning from 18 months of injury hell.
The 26-year-old penned a short-term contract until January and feels he has unfinished business at Pittodrie after a loan spell from Watford ruined by injury.
Hoban suffered a cruciate ligament injury that required surgery during that loan spell with the Dons in a 2-2 draw with St Mirren in February 2019.
He admits there were dark days during that long rehabilitation when there seemed there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
As the injury was suffered with Aberdeen, manager Derek McInnes saw it as a duty of care to help Hoban with his rehab.
He trained with the Dons in early March and was set to be offered a short-term deal only for that to be derailed by the shutdown of Scottish football on March 13.
Now, Hoban is back and desperate to repay McInnes, earn a longer deal and help Aberdeen secure success.
He said: “I would love to be here for the full season and have a great season.
“Initially my deal is until Christmas, but hopefully if things go well I can extend to the end of the season.
“Long term, I believe I am good enough to play at the top level if I can get an injury-free run now and rack up a few seasons of playing games.
“My goal is initially to stay fit and enjoy playing football again.
“Hopefully if I can have a great few years at Aberdeen that would be amazing.”
Hoban was due to feature in the Dons’ game with St Johnstone following the opening day defeat to Rangers, but that fixture was rescheduled following the Covid-19 protocol breach of eight team-mates.
That breach has since seen last night’s visit of Hamilton postponed, alongside Saturday’s scheduled trip to Parkhead.
However, Hoban is available for the rescheduled trip to face the Saints in Perth on August 20.
His knee injury last year was the latest setback for Hoban, who was ruled out for three months earlier that season with a dislocated shoulder.
The defender had been ruled out for the whole of the 2017-18 season, having suffered a cruciate ligament injury while training with Watford in summer 2017.
He was released by Watford last summer.
Hoban said: “It has been really tough, but I don’t like to go on about it too much because everyone has their challenges and difficulties in their lives.
“There were definitely times when I wasn’t sure even if I was going to be able to come back and play football.
“I ended up having to have a second operation and there were various times I had pain that just wasn’t going away.
“The longer you are out of the game you start to worry if there is going to be opportunities there for me when I come back.
“To top it all off Covid was another spanner in the works.
“I still believe I have a lot to give to the game and have not fulfilled my potential.
“Knowing how long the rehab is ahead, there are times when you get up everyday and think it is going to feel better. Then you start to get going, but you are in this constant cycle of pain. It does definitely get you down and mentally there were a lot of tough times.
“Fortunately I have a good family around me.”
Manager McInnes also offered his support to Hoban during his rehabilitation.
The defender was also heartened by messages of supporter from the Red Army.
He said: “The club have been fantastic for me. The gaffer has been fantastic and dropped me messages throughout the last 18 months.
“I was never sure if there was 100% going to be something here.
“But he has always shown he likes me as a player.
“The manager has the confidence I can turn that luck around and get back going.
“Hopefully we can get some good work in together.”