Max Clayton has opened up about the difficult and dark times he endured during his prolonged injury absence at Blackpool.
The forward was released by the Seasiders at the end of last season, having failed to play a league game for the club.
Clayton, 24, endured a horrific run of luck with injuries during his two-year spell at Bloomfield Road, making just seven appearances for the club.
A hamstring problem which saw his tendons come off the bone on two separate occasions, both requiring surgery.
“It’s been extremely difficult,” Clayton admitted to The Gazette. “Playing football is something I’ve never not done since I left school.
“Not being able to do what you love has been hard, but I’m absolutely desperate to play and do well.
“I had a really great to start to my career but I’ve had some bad injuries. I’m lucky that Blackpool have been extremely loyal to me.
“It’s been a traumatic year for me. I originally thought I’d be close to a return around Christmas time but I had a bit of a recurrence from the operation, which was a nightmare.
“But I’m finally starting to feel good again and I’m hoping to work throughout the off-season so I’m 100 per cent sure I’ll be back for pre-season.
“I’m in a much better frame of mind now but I have really missed it.”
Clayton, who joined Pool from Bolton Wanderers in the summer of 2017, most recently went under the knife at the start of last season.
He was originally expecting to return to action around Christmas time but that never materialised and he ended the season without making a single appearance.
He added: “I had an operation in August and I was supposed to have a five-month injury, so I should have been fit for the start of January.
“But I had a recurrence and that had a massive effect on me to be honest. I went from running every day to all of a sudden being in a lot of pain again.
“The surgeon told me to have three months off completely and now it’s a case of working it back up again to make sure I’m 100 per cent fit for the new season.”
Clayton is looking for a new club but has been been invited by Terry McPhillips to return for pre-season training at Blackpool and prove his fitness.
“Things are starting to look up for me again,” he said. “I’m doing well. I’m running every day and I should be fine for pre-season.
“This is the best I’ve felt in a couple of years, which for me mentally is amazing really.
“I just can’t wait to start now. Everybody else wants a break and to have time off, but I’m feeling good now and I’m looking forward to coming back.”