Preston North End midfielder Josh Harrop says this season is a ‘big one’ for him as he looks to put a serious knee injury in the past.
The former Manchester United player has not played since September because of a ruptured cruciate ligament.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter in terms of his recovery.
He will start pre-season training with his North End team-mates on Thursday.
After joining in training for the final couple of weeks of last season, Harrop has kept working over the summer to build up his fitness.
Harrop told the Lancashire Post: “Pre-season training is not a great time for players, it is hard work as you get your full fitness back.
“I’m looking forward to starting it though, it is a big part of coming back. This year is a big one for me, I’ve been out for nearly a full season and I’ve missed playing the game.
“I love playing football and being out injured makes you appreciate it even more.
“I’m going into the season with a fresh mind, the injury is behind me.
“After a couple of weeks off at the end of last season, I’ve been in most of the summer.
“I’ve been out running, done a bit of sharp stuff and changing direction to get my knee used to it.
“There’s been some long-distance running and then the weights in the gym.
“My knee has felt decent, not really much different to how it was before the injury.
“I get a few aches and that is down to the weights I do to strengthen it.”
Harrop was injured just a few minutes after coming on as a substitute in the 3-2 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the end of September.
In setting up Preston’s late second goal, he twisted at the same time as being tackled and tore the ligament. He had surgery to repair the damage and the last nine months have seen Harrop building up the knee and his fitness.
A bonus for him was being back on the training pitch at the tail end of last season.
Harrop, 23, said: “When you’ve been in the gym for so long, to get back training with the lads was brilliant.
“I had my wing-man Billy Bodin with me – he’s been out with the same sort of injury and we pushed each other along in our recoveries.
“We started training with the squad for the last two or three weeks of the season.
“I thought I was just going to be used as the floater in the training sessions but I got thrown straight in.
“It was good to be training again, being a footballer and going through the drills, the type of things I hadn’t been able to do for a few months.
“That couple of weeks gave me that bit more confidence going into the summer.”