Wigan Athletic star Shaun MacDonald has expressed his relief at reaching ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ after nine months out with a badly-broken leg.
The Wales international’s appearance on the bench at Bournemouth was much more than an emotional return to one of his former clubs.
It marked the end of, by his own admission, the worst period of his career, after being on the end of a horrific challenge in the penultimate game of last season at Reading.
While Latics have adjusted well to the disappointment of relegation to League One, with a two-point lead at the top heading into Saturday’s visit of Peterborough, for MacDonald it’s been one long, hard slog behind the scenes.
One that will hopefully have a happy ending, with the prospect of a promotion push to become involved with.
“It’s never nice when you can’t play, and it’s even more frustrating when it’s out of your control,” MacDonald told the Wigan Post.
“But all you can do is work hard behind the scenes, and focus on the light at the end of the long tunnel.
“I’m over the worst now and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting back in the team as quickly as possible.”
Not that the incredibly modest 29-year-old is taking a return to the first-team set-up for granted.
“At the same time I’m a realistic lad, and I’m not expected to walk back in after a couple of training sessions,” he acknowledged.
“The boys have been unbelievable this season, and the standards they are setting at the moment has been incredibly high.
“But I feel I have something to offer – that’s the reason I left Bournemouth to come here.
“I wasn’t getting enough game time there and I wanted to prove I could do a job here.
“It won’t be easy to get back in, but I’ll be doing everything I can to make it happen.”
The return of MacDonald has come at the perfect time for Latics boss Paul Cook, who saw on-loan Wolves midfielder Lee Evans recalled by his parent club at the weekend, amid speculation of a £750,000 transfer to Championship high-flyers Sheffield United.
Cook also has Max Power champing at the bit for a run in the side, after several impressive cameos off the substitutes’ bench in recent weeks.
One man unlikely to be affected by Evans’ departure is Jack Byrne, who spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Oldham, and is expected to be moved on to another club during the transfer window.