Wigan Athletic defender Donervon Daniels is hoping he’s finally nearing the end of the injury nightmare that’s robbed him of half a season of his career.
The 23-year-old is on the verge of a return to first-team duty after recovering from a knee problem he initially thought he could run off.
And he is champing at the bit to make up for lost time, with Latics currently mired in the relegation zone, six points adrift of safety.
“For me personally, it’s so much more frustrating to be sitting out games when the team is losing as opposed to winning,” he told the Evening Post.
“Last season, I played 45 games, and in a variety of different positions.
“I felt like I helped the team to reach this level, the Championship.
“Now all I want to do is try to help the team stay at this level, and even push on from this level.
“From a personal point of view, it’s been a real headache.
“From a team point of view, it’s been so hard, because there’s been so many injuries throughout the team this season.
“I just want to work as hard as I can to get back in the team – and stay there.”
Daniels made his comeback for the Development Squad well before Christmas, but his expected return to first-team duty has been delayed by a ‘little setback’ behind the scenes.
“I had a little setback, which was a little bit frustrating, but I think that’s part and parcel of being injured,” he revealed.
“This has been my first serious injury of my career, and it’s been such a frustrating period for me.
“I’m just concentrating on cracking on with what I’m being told to do, all the fitness work, all my running, all my rehab work.
“It’s slow, it’s taking its time, but I have to be patient with it.
“I’ve been training for a while now, and I feel fit, I feel strong.
“I’m still being looked after by the medical department, so I’m not yet 1,000 per cent fit like the rest of the lads are.
“But I do believe, at this moment in time, that I’m ready to challenge again for a spot.”
This weekend’s FA Cup third-round tie against Nottingham Forest could be the ideal game for Daniels to dip his toes back into the first-team water, with Latics boss Warren Joyce expected to shuffle his pack with bigger challenges lying ahead.
And having waited so long to make sure he’s totally ‘right’, Daniels is hoping to reap the rewards in the second half of the campaign.
“A few weeks back, I felt like I was on the tippy-toes of being back in the first team,” he added.
“I feel almost like I’ve had to take a few steps backwards.
“It’s a case of waking up each morning and wondering how it will feel.
“Sometimes I wake up and it’s completely different to what it felt like even two days before.
“That is the frustrating aspect, and this is where myself and the medical department are having to keep in contact with the knee surgeon.
“He’s obviously the specialist, he’s done thousands of operations similar to this one, and he’s always saying that it will take time.
“But it’s one of those where I’m just going to keep working until I’m back on that pitch, to make sure I’m back on that pitch for good.”