FLEETWOOD forward Andy Mangan admits he’s been through some of the toughest weeks in his career as he fights back towards fitness.
The 26-year-old, Town’s second-top scorer last season with 20, could be sidelined for up to five months after surgery on his knee cartilage, but he believes he can come through the ordeal stronger than ever.
But Mangan knows the road to recovery will be a long one.
He said: “There’s still a while to go. I’m on the road but it’s a big road – I think it’s route 66.
“I started biking last week and I’ll be stepping that up a bit. I won’t be able to impact or kick a ball for three months. It’s not good but that’s football, isn’t it?”
Mangan’s last appearance for Fleetwood was in the 0-0 draw at Bristol Rovers in late September. Following that, he went through a frustrating month, while medics tried to pinpoint the root of the problem, before finally being diagnosed last month.
Mangan said: “It was devastating to get the news but I try to put a positive spin on a lot of things. It was obviously a tough one. At the time I was trying to come back. I knew it wasn’t right, even though I’d had a scan and it was clear.
“I went for a different scan and that showed up exactly what it was. It was a problem with my articular cartilage.
“I’ve had to have it trimmed away and drilled into, and now the rehab is massive. I’ve just got to focus on that.”
Rehab for Mangan began with a gruelling regime, spending up to 12 hours a day using specialist equipment.
“It has been horrible,” said Mangan. “For the first three weeks I was on a machine on a bed 12 hours a day.
“It might sound all right, like I could watch telly or things like that, but ever since 15 I’ve been on my feet, running about every day, probably six or seven miles a day.
“I’ve been playing football and being with the lads. For that first two to three weeks it was terrible. But you know what? It will make me stronger and more determined.”
But despite his long road to recovery, Mangan has kept a close eye on his team-mates, travelling with the side to Dagenham to watch Saturday’s last-minute defeat from the stands. He said: “The lads are doing fantastic. There have been some really strong performances.
“Before the last two we were unbeaten in seven games. A lot of those were draws but there were some tough away draws, and hopefully we can pick it up and get some more good results.”
And lthough he’s keen to be back in the side, hoping to help in another promotion push, Mangan insists he won’t rush his return.
“If I can help in any way, or the lads think I can make a difference, then brilliant. I’d love to think I can be back in around March,” he said.
“But I’m not going to put a time limit on things. I want to come back right, so people think I’ve never been away.
“Whether that be this season or next, I’m not going to rush things.”