After seven months away from competitive football, Dundee’s players were understandably eager to return to action at Brora Rangers at the weekend.
For left-back Jordan Marshall, however, the Betfred Cup match ended an even longer spell on the sidelines.
And the 23-year-old has revealed it’s been a “horrible” wait after he suffered a seven-inch tear in his thigh while training in January that kept him out for the remainder of the 2019/20 season.
Just as he was preparing to return in March, the coronavirus pandemic hit and shut football down for the Dark Blues until this Saturday.
Another niggle, this time a hamstring problem, had kept him out of the pre-season friendlies but the weekend saw the flying full-back return to action finally after almost nine months.
And there was no hint of any rustiness as Marshall played a key role in the opening goal for Graham Dorrans in the Highlands.
He said: “It’s been a while, eight months! Before the lockdown, I picked up an injury and then when I came back to training I picked up another little one.
“Hopefully, I’m over them now.
“(Physio) Gerry Docherty has been different class with me, he’s been brilliant to get me back playing and I owe that to him on Saturday.”
On the injury, he said: “It’s been horrible, mentally.
“When the lockdown came in, I wasn’t far off being back so when that happened it was so frustrating.
“I got the injury at the end of the January transfer window and I think I was due to miss 12 or 13 games, then lockdown came and I was only two weeks away from returning to training but the pandemic came, not the best of luck.
“I did loads of running in the off-season and I felt brilliant coming back but picked up a little niggle.
“I went down to Leeds for an injection a couple of weeks ago so, hopefully, I’m over that now.
“It seems to have done the trick. Saturday was the first 90 minutes in the legs and I felt fit.
“All the boys came back flying, to be fair. I trained for the first two weeks of pre-season so I think that did a big job in boosting my fitness so coming back I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything.”
I think it was about a seven-inch tear in my thigh!
Just a day before the end of January, Marshall says he felt something in his thigh but thought little of it.
“I was running in training and I felt my thigh bunch up,” he said.
“I didn’t think it was that bad but I went for a scan and Gerry rang us saying it was a really bad one.
“I think it was about a seven-inch tear in my thigh!
“I didn’t believe him, I thought he was joking but he was serious and I ended up being out for about three months.
“I’d never done my thigh before. The gaffer asked us if I was OK on the Thursday when I did it and I said I’d be fine for Saturday but then got the scan and saw how big the tear was.”
Fast forward almost nine months and the former Queen of the South man was finally back in action.
A 2-0 victory at Highland champions Brora Rangers after the original opening game last week was called off due to a positive Covid-19 test among the Forfar Athletic squad saw Dundee back up and running.
Next, though, is the big test of the Championship kick-off at Tynecastle.
Recently-relegated Hearts are the opponents and likely rivals for promotion back to the top-flight.
With that in mind, Marshall & Co. are keen to put a marker down.
He added: “Saturday was a scrappy game but we did a professional job. Brora made it tough for us but we got the goals in the first half and got the job done.
“It was frustrating to have our first game called off but it’s good to get going and we can take Saturday’s victory into the first league game on Friday.
“We take the cups seriously but everyone looks to the first league game and we’re all raring to go for the opening game at Tynecastle on Friday.
“We’ll be looking to put a performance on. It’s on TV as well, the fans will be watching, and there’s an expectation at this club to win every game, especially in this league.
“There’s a pressure to play well as well – if you’re not doing that, fans will let you know.
“Us and Hearts are probably favourites for the league. They have a good squad but so do we. We’ll be looking to go there and get a result, definitely.”