DON Cowie is hoping to end nearly six months of hurt this weekend when Wigan Athletic entertain Colchester United.
The ex-Scotland midfielder has not played at the DW Stadium for the best part of half a year, thanks to a double dose of misery over the summer.
First, Cowie was laid low by a niggling calf problem that eventually led to surgery in the off-season.
Then, he was hit by a bout of appendicitis that forced him to undergo the surgeon’s knife again.
After months of gruelling rehab, Cowie is back in the fold and champing at the bit for a first-team recall.
An hour in the JPT victory at Crewe last week was followed by a place on the bench for Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Bury.
And he’s keeping his fingers crossed he’s involved for tomorrow’s big game against the resurgent U’s, who are looking to become the first side to win at the DW in the league this term.
“It’s another big game for us, and what we need to do is keep the home going, and remain unbeaten for as long as we can,” Cowie told the Evening Post.
“It’s important to get your three points at home, and keep nicking points here and there away from home. For one reason or another, it just didn’t happen for us at home last season.
“Even this year, although we’re unbeaten at home, we could have won even more games – and I think everyone would admit that.
“We’re dominating games without having that game management of being able to make the right decisions at the right time in games.
“But we’re a new group, we’re learning all the time and I’m confident it’ll come together sooner rather than later.”
Latics are currently on the fringe of the play-offs, but Cowie says it’s too early to panic.
“We are where we are because of the points we’ve gathered so far,” he reasoned. “We accept that, and there’s a lot of very good teams in this league – Gillingham, Burton, Walsall – who are doing very well at the moment.
“You take your hat off to them, and the number of points they’ve managed to accumulate so far, and that has to be the aim – to catch these teams.”
On a personal note, Cowie’s just glad to be back in the dressing room after becoming a regular on the treatment table.
“The calf was something that needed to be dealt with, to be honest,” he revealed.
“It was going on for too long, and unfortunately it coincided with my picking up appendicitis.
“You see all the new lads coming in and you want to be around them, getting to know them.
“The best way of doing that is out there on the training pitch, and I missed out on all that both in pre-season and the first two months of the campaign.
“I’m playing catch-up now, but we’ve got a great set of lads and it’s coming.”
Cowie is aiming to do his bit to help Latics right some of the wrongs of last season’s dismal campaign that ended in relegation.
“After the disappointment of last year you just want to bounce back,” he acknowledged.
“You feel you’ve got something to prove, and try to get back into the Championship as quickly as possible.
“You want to get off to a good start, so that was very disappointing in that respect.
“There’s been a lot of players who’ve come in, though, so we’ve been able to cope with a lot of absentees and the injured players are all back now.”
At least Cowie will not have to prove himself to a new manager, having been a team-mate of Gary Caldwell at both club and country level before the latter’s retirement to become Latics boss.
“He’s taken to management very well,” added Cowie.
“He’s someone I’ve known for a few years, through the Scotland squads, and he’s still the same character.
“Obviously he’s still learning the ropes, but he’s got a great future as a manager.
“He’s got that nice balance – the boys respect him but at the same time you can also have a laugh and go and talk to him if need be.
“I think the future of Wigan is in safe hands while he’s in charge.”