Danny East revealed he has defied the medics for the third time in his career as he stepped up his return from injury.
The versatile Pompey star played half an hour of yesterday’s 2-2 reserve-team draw with Newport County – just a few weeks after being informed his career could be over.
A pelvic injury had kept the 22-year-old out of action for this campaign to date, after seeing four months of last season wiped out by an ankle problem.
And that came on the back of a serious neck injury, which almost saw East forced to retire from the game in 2013.
But after fighting his way back once again, the player admitted it had been a huge relief to get back out on the pitch as he targets a return to the first team in January.
East said: ‘I was told I might not make it back again.
‘After a few months, I said “What are my chances?” The physio, Sean Duggan, said “It’s a crazy injury and you might not get back”.
‘But he told me he would do everything in his power to get me fit again.
‘I just want to thank him and the medical staff for helping me get back playing.
‘It felt pretty good to be in a game again.
‘I felt a bit tired but there was just a feeling of massive relief to get back out on the pitch again.
‘Now I will start stepping things up and hopefully start challenging for a first-team place in January.’
East explained his latest injury was more difficult to recover from as it was a combination of factors, rather than one issue that had to be resolved.
He said: ‘This injury was a dodgy one. The groin was a factor, the hips were a factor, the disc in my back was a factor and the pelvis was a factor.
‘I could have had an operation but it would have been 10 months out and there was no guarantee that it would have cured it.
‘But I’ve seen a few specialists, done a lot of work and we are now at this point.’
Although those concerns threatened his career again, East wanted to give himself every chance of making a return.
‘I’d been told twice before that I wouldn’t play again. Once when I had the neck injury last season and once when I was 18 and had a foot injury,’ he added.
‘I think I am quite mentally strong to deal with it.
‘It was a big setback and it was time to face reality.
‘But I just love playing and I’m obsessed with football.
‘I just want to be out there and playing.’
The former Hull City man also revealed his long-awaited playing return almost didn’t happen, after an unfortunate incident with Joe Devera in the pre-match warm-up.
East said: ‘I actually got a dead leg in the warm-up.
‘Joe caught me in the thigh with his knee – I don’t think he meant to do it. But I was always going to try it out. It was fine.’