Mansfield Town defender John Thompson says he feared for his career after a horrific facial injury in pre-season left him housebound and eating through a straw.
Thompson finally made his debut against AFC Telford on Saturday after nearly four months on the sidelines, and he helped the Stags keep a first clean sheet in 13 games.
But pleased as the 30-year-old defender was with his contribution, he was just thrilled to be back on the pitch again.
"It's great to be playing football because there were times when I didn't think I would get back," Thompson told BBC Radio Nottingham.
"I had to stay in my house for more than a month and was eating and drinking through straws."
Thompson, who moved to Field Mill from Notts County in the summer, had his nose broken and needed 40 stitches following the pre-season friendly against Ilkeston FC in August.
Stags manager Paul Cox abandoned the match with 17 minutes remaining when Thompson became the third player to be injured following challenges by Ilkeston striker Gary Ricketts, who was subsequently banned and fined by his club.
And although Republic of Ireland international Thompson has made a full recovery, the time spent getting back to fitness, and the extent of the injury, have left a lasting impression.
Thompson added: "It's been a tough road. It was a bad injury and everyone who saw the pictures would say that and I have lot more pictures that were even worse.
"It's been nearly four months since the injury and it wasn't a nice time for anyone in my family but I am over it now.
"There were dark times but you take little steps and little steps and to be out there playing with the boys again was brilliant.
"I'm very happy and pleased with myself - especially to get through 90 minutes."
The versatile Dublin-born defender admitted there were occasions when he wondered how he would react when he did play full-contact football again.
"There was a little bit of doubt but I am generally quite a tough character, and as I soon I got my first training session back I realised I was heading balls and doing things naturally," Thompson said. "It's not going to really concern me."
Thompson's return also means he has joined a select group of players who have represented Nottinghamshire's three main clubs. He has played 100 games for both Forest, where he started his career, and Notts County.
"I have lived in Nottingham since I was 17 and it's a great city," Thompson said. "To play for those three clubs is a great achievement and it's something I am really proud of.
"They are the three clubs whose results I always look out for now."