HAWKS midfielder Bobby Hopkinson reflected on a tough time out of the game and declared: I feel better than ever.
The tenacious youngster suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle against Boreham Wood in January.
But after recovering ahead of schedule, he’s started the past three Hawks matches, helping earn two wins and a draw.
Hopkinson, 21, said: ‘On the ball, my confidence has shone through and I feel better for that.
‘The fitness side of things is still to improve and match fitness will come.
‘But with each game I feel more and more confident and more like my old self.’
The initial injury left Hopkinson in hospital for four days as he had 11 screws and a six-inch metal plate inserted into his leg.
And the midfielder, known for his ball-winning ability, admits getting through the first tackle was key as he made his first-team return.
He said: ‘I always thought if the first tackle was going to be a cruncher I would have to go in for it.
‘I had a tackle against Blackfield & Langley on my first full start for Havant, which was a cruncher, and I haven’t looked back since.’
Despite returning quicker than initially expected, Hopkinson had to endure some dark days on the way back to fitness.
But each time he was confronted with a new challenge he found crucial help along the way.
‘I only took a week off work after the injury happened,’ he said.
‘I went back on crutches to continue my coaching with the Hawks Community scheme and that was where Shaun Gale (Hawks manager) came in.
‘Without Shaun, I wouldn’t have been able to get to the places to do the coaching. Shaun gave me lifts when I couldn’t drive and I wanted to get back to fitness as quickly as I could for him.
‘During the summer, I came in two or three times a week with Phil Ashwell (Hawks physio) to work on my ankle.
‘I was running and kicking a ball and progressing really quickly.
‘I then played about eight matches for Horndean, on loan, to get my fitness up.
‘Their manager Dave Carter was brilliant and helped me out.
‘After that I played 70 minutes in a friendly for Havant against the navy and felt I played really well.
‘The gaffer was pleased with my performance but then I got a knock on my ankle and was back in cast.’
Ashwell played a key role in ensuring Hopkinson kept his focus.
And the midfielder is also thankful for the support of his wife Fran.
‘I got married in November,’ said Hopkinson.
‘Fran had to deal with my mood swings and me getting upset.
‘She looked after me when times were hard and I’d marry her a million times over if I could.
‘It’s because of Phil that I am fit now.
‘He’s the main reason I’m playing again so I owe him a big thanks.
‘The toughest thing is when you feel you are ready to play and have to watch from the sidelines because you don’t have the match fitness.
‘But Phil said he would get me right as quickly as possible and now I feel brilliant.’