FC Halifax Town: Striker Stenson delighted to be back after more than a year on the sidelines
Matty Stenson's substitute appearance in Monday's 1-1 draw at Grimsby was 14 months in the making.
The Town forward was only 16 minutes into his debut when he was forced off in the 1-0 home defeat to Wealdstone in November 2020.
Since then, it has been a long, hard road to recovery. But Stenson finally completed that journey on Monday.
"At first, I was very nervous because it's been such a long time but as soon as I was on the pitch it was all forgotten about and very exciting," he said.
The former Solihull and Leamington forward feels he has matured as a player and a person since the injury.
"I think I'm a bit more grown-up, I think I understand football a bit more," he said.
"I prepare myself mentally and physically a bit better before I come out to training and before I go out to games.
"Getting my body ready, calming my nerves, using them in the right way, preparing myself the day before, a couple of days before, eating well, drinking well.
"I just feel a lot more prepared, a lot more grown-up in a sense.
"I see things differently since I've had children as well, which has played a massive part since I've been injured.
"I'm definitely a different person."
Stenson feels he owes a debt of gratitude to the Town staff and squad for the support they have given him during his rehabilitation.
"From the very first day I did it, they've always made me feel part of the team, which is what I love about the club," he said.
"Not once have I felt forgotten about. Previously in clubs that I've been injured at, once you're injured you're kind of pushed to the side.
"I've never once felt that here. I've gained a lot of respect for the players, for the staff, and in a sense it's made me feel like I owe it them back because they've made me feel that way."
Stenson's initial comeback came on loan at Tamworth, where he scored two goals in two games.
"It helped me get over that mental barrier or being injured, just getting on the pitch helped me massively," he said.
"The first goal felt good. It was a long time coming, it gave me a real good confidence boost."
But the 27-year-old says he is under no illusions that the hard work must continue if he is to see more game-time for The Shaymen.
"Getting closer to coming back playing, I was excited, and now I'm here it's actually a bit of a strange one because, although I've worked really hard to get to this point, I also have to keep working hard to get back in the team," he said.
"So obviously the excitement's still there, but I still need to work hard."
Stenson is confident he can work his way back into the first-team though.
"Definitely, it's not going to happen overnight," he said.
"Although I've been working hard for the last 14, 15 months, the hard work starts now.
"I believe once I find my feet and start getting up scratch that I can compete for a place."
When asked what his targets are for the rest of the season, Stenson said: "I just want to get in the team first and foremost, and once I am, hopefully I can maybe come up with one or two goals.
"Hopefully if I get in the team, I can score maybe ten. I'll be happy with that."
Stenson added: "I had it taken away from me, the only thing I want to do, and now 15 months later I'm back, so it's all been worth it in the end."