Laura-Jayne O’Neill made her first appearance for Nottingham Forest in 23 months on Sunday afternoon as she made her long-awaited return from injury.
The long-term Red recorded her 71st appearance for the club as she returned to the pitch and she explains what kept her motivated during her long injury lay-off.
“I've played football all my life so I didn't really know what to do with myself without it,” O’Neill explained.
“Psychologically it was so difficult, the pain and the rehab and the training always felt like the easy part.
“But once I was back in with my team mates and the physio I always felt part of the team and the support from everyone at the club has been amazing.
“So even when I was doubting myself there was always somebody to give me a nudge in the shoulder to remind me 'I will be back playing' and that really does go a long way.
“I focused on achieving small goals in my rehab, rather than the bigger picture to keep myself motivated.
“The physios have been a huge part in getting me back on the pitch and I'm very thankful to them and to the club for their support.”
O’Neill slotted back into a familiar right back position and helped the side to 5-0 win over Ollerton Town as The Reds booked their place in the Nottinghamshire County Cup final and she was delighted to mark her return with a clean sheet.
O’Neill said: “It means a lot to make the finals of the County Cup again and personally it feels amazing to be a part of that.
“Ollerton are a good team with some good players and we've had a few close games with them before, especially last year’s cup final, so we knew it wouldn't be an easy game.
“So, to keep a clean sheet and to score five goals we were happy.”
O’Neill played the opening 55 minutes of the game as she’s looking to regain her full match fitness and she’s hoping it won’t be long until she’s back playing the full 90 with the side.
She said: “I don't think it will be too long.
“I felt really good after playing 55 minutes on Sunday so I will be looking to try and increase my game time each week.
“Playing on Sunday has given me a lot of confidence to be back on the pitch so I'm looking forward to training hard and getting some more game time to try and cement a place in the team.”
The full-back began her Nottingham Forest career back in 2011 and has played for the side over two spells and she reflects on what has changed at the club throughout that time.
“Each season there are huge improvements to the club, especially this season,” O’Neill stated.
“We are very organised and have good support from the men's club too.
“The improvements in the organisation, video analysis, GPS, sports science input and physios are so important if the club are to progress.
“As players, we are very lucky to have the set up that we do at Nottingham Forest.
“It's a really good feeling to have witnessed these improvements over the last few years because the club means a lot to me being from Nottingham, and collectively we are all excited about the future of the club.”