Paddy McCarthy admits that he will relish every single kick of the ball during his second loan spell at Sheffield United - after a mystery injury threatened to wreck his career.
McCarthy, the Crystal Palace centre-back, was eventually diagnosed with Osteitis Pubis, a common - and painful - injury which causes chronic groin problems.
The Irishman is now back to full fitness, and looking forward to this afternoon’s South Yorkshire derby at Doncaster. But he will never lose sight of the days when he feared he wouldn’t experience such occasions ever again.
“I’d managed the injury for 18 months to two years with painkillers and injections, but I had one too many and my body rejected it, leaving me unable to walk.
“I remember going into the hospital feeling fine, having the injection and then, two days later, I couldn’t get off the sofa.
“It was a tough one to take at the time and luckily I’m over it now, but at the time it was pretty scary.
“Obviously, I didn’t know what was going on and top surgeons in the country weren’t sure, either. We travelled all over Europe and even further to find answers and couldn’t.
“But eventually, we got over it and worked extremely hard on my fitness to get back to where I wanted to be.
“I now cherish every last moment I spend on a football pitch, after going through such a nightmare time with injury and wondering if it would be the end of my career. That’s the type of bloke I am - I don’t want to be sitting around, injured, just picking up my money. I had 18 months out without playing and that took its toll, mentally.
“But after recovering I told myself to relish every last kick of the football and I think I’m probably enjoying myself now more than I was before, thanks to what I’ve been through.”
“If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you the same,” McCarthy continued.
“I’m a nightmare when I’m injured, to live with, so to be honest, I’m probably luckier to still be with her than to be playing football again! But in all seriousness, nearly having it taken away made me appreciate what a great thing playing football is and I’ll never lose sight of that, because I know how lucky I am.”
Family is a vitally important part in the life of McCarthy, who will spend the early part of a normal week training with Palace before travelling up to Sheffield closer to a game.
“It gives me a bit of leeway to spend more time with my family, and I’m very lucky to have the understanding of both managers [United’s Nigel Clough and Neil Warnock, of Palace.
“So I can’t thank them enough for that.
“It was important to me to speak with the United lads and make sure they were okay with the arrangement - if it caused any kind of conflict, I’d knock it on the head straightaway. But they’ve been fantastic with me - they understand where I was coming from and didn’t resent me for it, so it was a no-brainer to re-sign. I just want to repay them now and help the club get up the table.
“I dont just want to be here to play games. I want to help win them.”