Wigan Athletic star opens up on mental toughness
Joe Bennett has opened up on the mental toughness he's needed to cope with almost 12 months of frustration to emerge from the Wigan Athletic shadows.
The 32-year-old joined Latics on deadline day last summer, coming to the end of a lengthy lay-off from a serious knee injury.
But his time with Latics has been constant stop-start, with a number of niggly problems preventing him putting a run of games together.
He returned to the starting line-up against Accrington in midweek, and set Latics on their way to another big win with a sumptuous free-kick to open the scoring.
And he's hoping that will draw a line in the sand for his fitness nightmare.
"I've been out for pretty much 12 months, and it's just nice to get out there on the field," said Bennett, who was making only his fifth league start in midweek.
"It's been tough, because I honestly thought I'd be able to play from the start of the season.
"The surgeon told me it'd be between six and nine months, and it's obviously been a lot longer than that.
"It's not actually been the same injury, I thought I was okay at the start of the season, but I kept getting little niggles, in my calf for example.
"Touch wood I'm through that now and ready for a run of games.
"The plus side is I'm feeling really fresh at the moment, and desperate to play some games.
"And the manager knows that, I've been knocking on his door and telling him I'm ready, but it's been tough because the team's been going so well.
"I've had to be patient, but hopefully now I'll have a good end to the season."
Left-back Bennett could easily have had a hat-trick, with a header flying wide and another shot being deflected past the post.
"To score my first goal was obviously brilliant, but I could have been taking the ball home!" he laughed.
"I took my eye off the header in the first half, and I had a little chance in the second half which was deflected wide.
"I will settle for one, though, because it's been a while.
"Getting back into the side has been bitter sweet with Macca (James McClean) being injured, because he's been so great for us, with his goals and assists.
"Pearcey (Tom Pearce) is obviously injured as well, and that's meant I've been able to take my place in the side.
"It's difficult seeing two good people as well as two good players having to sit out games.
"But I've just got to focus on me and hopefully I can help the team in my own way."
He also explained the thought process behind him taking the first-half free-kick ahead of Max Power.
"Max was going to say it, and he just had a look to see where the goalkeeper was positioned," Bennett added.
"It maybe suited the left-footer a little bit more, because of where he was standing.
"I thought 'I'll have a go' and thankfully it's gone into the top corner.
"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was in, and it was a great feeling to help us on the way to a win."