Liam Hearn was happy and relieved to be back in a Mansfield Town shirt yesterday and said he had never contemplated his career may be over.
Goal ace Hearn suffered a serious cruciate knee injury in August, his third bad injury in as many seasons, which would have been enough to force some players into retirement.
When I came on I felt my heart racing a bit as I’d been out such a long time.
But Hearn has worked tirelessly and was rewarded with the last 12 minutes off the bench in the 2-1 defeat at Plymouth that leaves Stags in the relegation shake-up with four games to go.
“It was disappointing to lose, but on a personal note it was good to come on,” he said.
“It never crossed my mind I wouldn’t come back.
“I have put in a lot of hard work. Some people probably thought it was the end of me. But I have proved them wrong and I have done that all my life since I was a kid.
“I do feel fully fit now, though I know starting a game is totally different to coming on. I didn’t feel tired during the game and I did some extra runs afterwards and I still don’t feel tired.
“It was difficult. I wanted to do well but at the same time knew I had to keep calm. When I came on I felt my heart racing a bit as I’d been out such a long time.
“Hopefully next game I will be a bit calmer and get the goal I need.
“The physio has given me a programme and people around me have worked hard with me. A huge part of it has been the mental side. But if I hadn’t given it 100 per cent I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I know where I need to be.”
Hearn believes he may have to wait until next season to start a game, but is hoping in the meantime to play a bit part in keeping Stags in the Football League.
“I think a start is a bit ahead of me yet,” he said. “The lads are doing well, though we haven’t scored the goals we deserved. The gaffer has a formula and uses a game plan. With me it’s a bonus to have me coming on. But I think it will be cameo roles for the rest of the season.
“I’d like to thank the fans who clapped me when I was warming up, though I didn’t notice at the time as I was so focused on the game, and fans from everywhere who have backed me.
“The most important thing is seeing the end goal – that desire to be where you want to be in life and in your career is what drives you.”