Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck admits his “love of football” helped to keep him going as he battled his way back from a second serious injury problem.
The England international missed the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph in 2015 after picking up a knock, with a knee complaint eventually keeping him on the sidelines until February 2016.
He returned with a bang, as he netted a last-gasp winner in a meeting with Premier League champions-elect Leicester City, but was ruled out again in May.
Welbeck was forced to sit out Euro 2016 as a result, with another eight months spent working his way back to full fitness.
The 26-year-old stepped back into the fold for a FA Cup clash with Preston in January 2017, before netting two goals in a meeting with Southampton in the same competition.
He hopes his injury struggles are now behind him, with a desire to experience the “thrill” of playing again having helped to carry him through a testing period.
Welbeck told the Arsenal Weekly podcast: “I think it’s just the love of football [that keeps you going].
“However hard it may have been at the time experiencing what I experienced – it was hard being on the sidelines and watching on TV – it’s about the thrill of getting back out on the pitch.
“Once you’re able to go outside the gym and physically do stuff on the pitch it’s something you can’t really put into words how good it feels. Even just passing the ball for the first time.
“Obviously you go through ups and downs in the rehab process and that was difficult but as you get closer and closer you feel so much better.”
Welbeck tweeted upon his return to action that he had experienced some “dark moments” during his rehabilitation, but he is now looking to put those days behind him and focus on recapturing the form which has made him a Premier League and international regular.
He added: “The most important thing for me at the moment is to gather a consistency in training and obviously get minutes under my belt in the first team matches then we’ll see from there.
“Obviously I’ve been out for a long time and then a long before that which was horrible for me.
“The second time round it really, really hit home because it was so difficult to take. At first you get told you’re missing a couple of months and after the surgery you get told you’re missing a certain amount of time [over 8 months]. It’s difficult to take.
“Right now I’m just going to enjoy playing, enjoy training and hopefully get back on the pitch and win some games.”