Fleetwood Town winger Jeff Hughes is hoping his injury misery may soon be at an end after playing pain-free for the first time since January.
The former Notts County man broke a bone in his leg in a rugged challenge in Town’s League Two game against Hartlepool United eight months ago.
Since then he’s hardly kicked a ball – his return delayed by the need for a second operation and then specialist injections to aid his recovery.
The latest treatment for Hughes seems to have paid off, the midfielder playing a full 90 minutes for Town’s development squad as they drew 0-0 at home to Wigan Athletic in the Final Third Development Cup yesterday.
And Hughes revealed he is finally making significant progress.
He said: “It was better today. It’s the first time I’ve played pain free, that’s a big step.
“It wasn’t the greatest of performances but I’m over the moon. Once you’re back playing, you can’t expect everything to be as it was before. You’ve got to keep on it.
“You’ve got a programme, you’ve got to progress and get things back.”
Hughes was delighted to be a part of the action for Fleetwood but warned fans that it might be some time yet before he’s ready for the challenge of life in League One.
Hughes told The Gazette: “You don’t just walk back into the first team. It doesn’t work like that.
“I’ve had four days’ training – five if you include one with the kids. That’s since I’ve had the injections.
“In the games I had played it hasn’t been quite right.
“This is the first time I’ve played without it hurting me. It’s still early days but it’s good to be on the home stretch.”
But at least a pain-free 90 minutes against the Latics brings to an end an horrific nine months for the Northern Irishman.
He explained: “I’d done all the recovery work, then discovered I had to have another operation, which set me right back to square one.
“I’ve done recovery work over pre-season and had my injections a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully now this is the final stretch.”
“It’s hard not being involved. At the start. you’re away from it all and you don’t really see the training. Once you’re back in it you really start to miss it.
“You see what you’ve been away from. That’s good because it gives you that extra to be back in the squad.”
As he tries pick up where he left off in January, Hughes admitted: “I get really frustrated at times. It’s just simple things – the ball bouncing off you, people skipping inside.
“You know they are going to do it but you don’t quite get there. It’s frustrating but it’s these things you have to work at.
“You know you’ll get there and that it will come. It’s been a long road, so two more weeks isn’t really going to hurt.”
Yesterday’s match will at least help Hughes erase the memory of the challenge which brought his Fleetwood career to a crashing halt.
“It’s the last memory I have of playing football before this game,” he said.
“The last thing I remember is doing a somersault and limping off. That will change.”