DESPITE over 200 League games and being an ex-Irish international, John Thompson admitted that he had never been as nervous before a game as he was making his first Mansfield Town appearance of the season last weekend.
Horrific facial injuries he sustained in last season’s notorious pre-season fixture at Ilkeston left him with deep physical and mental scars.
And, when his comeback stalled last season with continuing problems from the incident with Gary Ricketts, doubts began to creep into his mind that he still had a future in the professional game.
But Thompson is a strong character and was overjoyed to face Hereford last weekend and is now looking forward to tomorrow’s trip to Cambridge with renewed hope.
“It’s been a long time waiting for it,” he said of his return last weekend.
“It’s been a frustrating time since I came to the club but I am being positive now and looking forward. I was delighted to get the chance to play 90 minutes.
“I’ve never had a time like this in my career. I did a lot of work pre-season to get myself fit so I was disappointed not to given the chance to start the season.
“I am sure the manager was sick of me knocking at his door and asking him when I might be playing. But he said I would get my chance pretty soon and he’s been true to his word so it’s up to me now.
“It has been tough mentally and physically with what happened.
“I managed to get back on the pitch last season but I wasn’t 100 per cent mentally. I still think I am a bit of a work in progress at the moment.
“I still have slight issues from the injuries such as very stiff necks the day after games. But I am more than able to do a job for the team.
“I wanted to keep playing football and not give in to what happened. It was a terrible thing and should have never happened on a football pitch.”
On last weekend, he added: “I was probably more nervous than any other game in my career - and I have played in hundreds.
“It was my chance to get back in the team, prove people wrong and stay playing professional football.
“The supporters have been unbelievable with the reception they give me every time.
“It would have been very easy for them to get annoyed as I’ve hardly played since I came here.
“But they have stuck with me and I want to repay that now and help this club get out of this league. The fans here deserve a bit of success and, if I can help them do that, I would be delighted.”