Mansfield Town striker Liam Hearn says he has a deeper love for football after spending the best part of two years on the treatment table.
The former Alfreton Town hitman has suffered an injury nightmare ever since he ruptured his achilles during a training session while playing for Grimsby Town in August 2012.
Hearn, who was Grimsby’s topscorer during the 2011/12 season with 29 goals, was then hit with another major setback when he injured cruciate ligaments during a match against Barnet in November 2013.
“The Barnet injury was very painful, but it was just one of those things,” said Hearn.
“I came on as a sub and scored to make it comfortable for us.
“I had the ball at the end of the game and could have taken a defender on, but I didn’t and, as I shielded the ball, I felt my cruciate ligaments go.
“The injuries have been a real nightmare and I’ve been through a lot emotionally over the last two years.
“I am happy with how the injuries have healed and feel that I am going from strength to strength.
“I have not felt any twinges or any pain in pre-season and I feel like it is all behind me now.
“Things have gone well for me during pre-season and I am happy with my fitness levels. The weight is starting to come off and I am feeling good mentally.
“I am feeling the physical effects, pre-season has been tiring so far. It is the same for all players, that is what pre-season is about.
“I am where I want to be at this stage in terms of game time. I am probably much further ahead than I should actually be though and that is great credit to the physio team I have around me.
And the determined goal-getter, who bagged 65 goals in 94 games for Alfreton Town, said quitting the sport he loves was never an option.
“It has been a long road back, but I never thought that the injuries would end my career,” added Hearn.
“I am tough mentally and the people I have grown up with, and the background I am from, would not have let me give up my Football League dream over an injury.
“Too many people throw away their dreams too easily, but that was never going to happen to me.
“It has been a tough two years and watching football from the stands or on the TV was hard for me to experience. It was tough in the first year, but the second year was an even harder experience.
“Being out of football for so long has taught me to appreciate football and enjoy it more. I just want to play football for Mansfield Town now and to pay the boss back for having the faith in me.
“I am not setting myself any goal targets or anything like that, I just want to score goals and to play as many games as possible,
“I hope to start against Northampton and then kick on from there.”
Hearn came off the bench to score two goals during his Stags debut against Leeds United, before completing another 30 minutes against Grimsby Town.